California’s New Health Information Exchange Hires CEO

Cal eConnect, the new organization overseeing California’s metamorphosis from paper-based to electronic health care, has hired a CEO — Carladenise Edwards.

Edwards, former health IT coordinator for the state of Georgia and health IT adviser to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), will oversee the $38.8 million federal grant for health information exchange that California received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to be part of the largest health information exchange effort in the country,” Edwards said. After moving from Atlanta to California, Edwards began managing the start-up organization’s business in earnest last month.

“On the top of my list is solidifying the organizational structure and identifying the best and brightest talent to support the mission of Cal eConnect,” Edwards said. “We will be searching for staff, volunteers, and supporters who can make significant contributions toward advancing the meaningful use of electronic health information technology in communities across the state.”

Cross-Pollination Among States Possible

Although Cal eConnect is a private, not-for-profit company, it was designed and designated by California officials to orchestrate health information exchange policies and services throughout the state. Other states are pursuing similar approaches, creating public-private partnerships to establish ground rules for health information to be exchanged appropriately among clinicians, hospitals, health plans, patients and government programs.

Rhode Island, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Indiana are working on similar models, according to Edwards.

“I think what is different and exciting about California is the significant stakeholder support and buy-in that includes public, private, philanthropic, advocacy, non-profit and for-profit entities working together to fulfill the vision and mission that is Cal eConnect,” Edwards said.

Edwards said she welcomes the possibility of cross-pollination between states.

“I would love to work collaboratively with other states. I think it is imperative that all of the states work together. There are lessons to be learned and resources that can be shared to avoid duplicating effort and ensure that we implement solutions that allow for integration into a nationwide health information network,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the teams she worked with in Florida and Georgia are eager to share information with California.

As the interim commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health, Edwards led a $12 billion agency responsible for health care purchasing, planning and regulation. Before that, Edwards was chief of staff for the department, serving as principal adviser on all major policy and management issues and initiatives with special emphasis on managed care, health information technology, public health, health care reform, and contracts and procurements.

Edwards, who has a doctorate in medical sociology from the University of Florida, founded the BAE Company, a professional services consulting firm providing health and social services entities with project management, business development and contract negotiation services. She was also vice president of operations for Williams, Stern and Associates, a Miami-based health and human services consulting firm.

Cal eConnect Leaders Welcome Edwards

“Cal eConnect is fortunate to have an individual of Dr. Edwards’ caliber guiding this critical initiative,” David Lansky — co-chair of the Cal eConnect board of directors and CEO of the Pacific Business Group on Health — said in a prepared statement.

“In addition to her knowledge of health information technology and exchange, she has broad and deep policy experience at both the federal, state and community levels. This will be extremely important in fulfilling Cal eConnect’s role of establishing the policies necessary for exchanging information safely and securely,” Lansky said.

Don Crane, Cal eConnect co-chair and CEO of the California Association of Physician Groups, agreed.

“Dr. Edwards’ history of public service combined with her interest and advocacy for improving health care quality make her an ideal HIE leader for California,” Crane said.

Setting Up Shop

Until a permanent home is determined, Cal eConnect and Edwards will work in temporary quarters in the Pacific Business Group on Health’s San Francisco offices. Edwards said it’s too early to predict specifics such as staff size and number and location of branch offices.

“As the organization grows over the next three years, the staff and the operation may grow,” Edwards said, adding, “However, I’m a strong advocate of keeping things lean and mean so that we expend our financial resources on the solution to the problems we’ve been charged with addressing and not on maintaining an office for the sake of having an office.”

Edwards said Cal eConnect will make use of the advantages technology offers.

“I would like to utilize the conveniences that technology brings to the work place to the extent possible, so that we can support teleworking and virtual work spaces when and where appropriate.”

Groups Release Patient-Centered HIE Principles for California

Just a week after Edwards was appointed CEO of Cal eConnect, a collection of consumer, health and civil rights organizations released a set of patient-centered principles that they say should guide California’s use of health technology and information exchange.

The project was supported by a California HealthCare Foundation grant. CHCF is the publisher of California Healthline.

Headed by Consumers Union, the group of 16 organizations has been formulating the principles for the past six months. The group includes:

  • AARP;
  • Health Access;
  • The Center for Democracy & Technology;
  • Consumer Action; and
  • The Children’s Partnership.

“Health information exchange and technology can bring substantial benefits to better health and better health care in California, including better quality data for population health improvements,” said Mark Savage of Consumers Union.

The broad-ranging principles include:

  • Emphasizing benefits for individual health;
  • Emphasizing benefits for public health;
  • Ensuring the HIE is inclusive and equal;
  • Ensuring accessibility and interoperability;
  • Ensuring privacy and security of information;
  • Preventing misuse of health data;
  • Building health IT literacy for the public;
  • Ensuring accountability; and
  • Ensuring enforcement.

Edwards endorsed the principles.

“The principles for HIE and HIT adopted by the Consumers Union and its respective partners are comprehensive and very well developed,” Edwards said in an e-mail. 

“They have the potential to serve as the guiding principles for all states that are implementing electronic HIE through the federal cooperative agreements,” she said. “As the president and CEO of Cal eConnect, I look forward to working with the Consumers Union to implement California’s plan for HIE in accordance with these principles. Reading the press release on the final version of the principles confirmed for me that I’ve landed in the right place at the right time,” Edwards added.

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