HIE merger for the greater good

Common goals are a key to success for any business venture. But for a merger, negotiating common goals and how best to achieve them is especially critical. I saw this again in the case of the Great Lakes Health Connect (GLHC) – a very recent merger of two major Michigan substate HIEs: Great Lakes Health Information Exchange (GLHIE) and Michigan Health Connect (MHC).

Michigan has had multiple substate HIEs organized by regional markets. While this was a conscious Win-win puzzlestrategy several years ago, many health care leaders had come to question it over time. However, the obstacles seemed too difficult to overcome, and inertia prevented change. So the two major HIEs grew and became stronger and more competitive. Provider organizations in some regions were torn between the two and faced limits in the data they could access. Other organizations sat on the sidelines waiting for one to prevail.

Last summer, a few of us decided it was time to act. We wrote a Memo of Understanding (MOU) that was approved by our respective boards and we formed a joint oversight steering committee.

We met regularly for months over the winter. I had some white knuckle drives through winter storms to Lansing where we met.  I go to a lot of meetings, but I can say that even with the hour drive to and from Lansing, the meetings of our joint oversight committee proved to be some of the most productive and focused meetings I’ve been in.  Our goal was increased collaboration as we exercised due diligence on whether we should merge.

What do mergers have in common?

  • First, we needed to agree on common goals.  We are all committed to improving health outcomes and health care value for patients, providers, organizations and the communities we serve. Intuitively we all knew we could do this better and more efficiently as a combined organization.
  • We had to determine the right business model, services and functions we’d provide. We shared many similarities and some differences so we needed to agree on what the combined whole would look like.
  • We had to select a vendor platform, a critical decision that involved a wider group of constituents. We all had made investments in interfacing with the platform of our respective HIE. And when it comes to technology, side by side comparison is required.
  • We had to agree on who would lead the new organization. We were fortunate that the executive directors of each of the HIEs had worked very collaboratively and effectively throughout the due diligence phase of our work.
  • Other key areas needing decisions were staffing, organization structure, HR and legal issues.
  • And finally, we had to confront the important issue of the cost of the merger. Were we going to see cost efficiencies in the long run?  Could we ensure that member organizations weren’t investing a second time in interfaces?

Hand sandwichWhy are mergers so difficult? It comes down to give and take, negotiation and focus on the common goals.

The joint oversight steering committee believed that we had worked through all the issues and done what’s right for the provider organizations we serve, and our patients. Our merger plan was approved unanimously in May by both the MHC and GLHIE boards.

As of  July 1st, Great Lakes Health Connect is the new merged Health Information Exchange, including 80 percent of the state’s total licensed beds, 120 member hospitals, 20,000 physicians, 3,000 clinics and offices.

Now the real work begins. There is plenty of transition work ahead but we’re poised for success.

I have served on the GLHIE board for the past year and a half. I’m honored to have been elected to the new GLHC board. Over the next year, I will share our experience and lessons on this great step forward as Great Lakes Health Connect evolves.

4 thoughts on “HIE merger for the greater good

  1. Fadi Islim on said:

    Congratulation on the election. they should be honored as well for having you. they’ve got the best.
    Merging? i wont add anything onwhat you said already, but Yes, I agree that it is a very critical decision and it could go with a big success or it could go with a big failur.
    closer look? Chrysler and Mercedes if this a good example to use from the auto industry? but yes if you do not follow and apply everything you mentioned in your post above then things could go real bad. or having critical ind and scholarly individuals like you the road it will only take you to one end, SUCCESS.

  2. Donna Fraser on said:

    Sue:

    Congratulations on creating a positive beginning for Great Lakes Health Connect. Best wishes to GLHC for a long and productive life. Everyone will benefit from your success.

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Donna, Thanks for the positive feedback. It has been interesting to work with my Michigan CIO colleagues given my previous experience in Massachusetts which has a stong history of collaboration around data with MDC and NEHEN. Collaborative efforts are needed to ensure sustainable HIE models. Experiences and results vary state to state. Hopefully, our positive experience here will be helpful to others around the country.

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