NORC at the University of Chicago (NORC) is pleased to present this report detailing findings from our recent site visit to Chicago, IL for the "Assessment of Health IT and Data Exchange in Safety Net Providers," a project sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). ASPE is conducting this project in close collaboration with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Our report synthesizes findings from our first of six site visits examining Electronic Health Record (EHR) implementation among health center networks. The current report focuses on discussions held with staff and members of the Alliance of Chicago Health Centers (hereafter referred to as "the Alliance"). In a separate report, we summarize findings from discussions with Access Community Health Network, another large Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) organization implementing health IT in Chicago.
The meetings summarized below took place on August 18-21, 2008. Prior to arriving on site in Chicago our team conducted initial telephone and email discussions to coordinate logistics and provide basic information on the agenda and topics to be covered in the in-person meetings. We conducted a total of 12 meetings with over 15 participants representing the Alliance's network and health center staff. Site visits took place at the Alliance's headquarters on the north side of Chicago as well as with members of its four regional health centers: Erie Family Health Center, Heartland Health Outreach, Howard Brown Health Center and Near North Health Service Corporation. Telephone and in-person meetings were conducted using open-ended discussion agendas that provided a consistent structure to each exchange while allowing sufficient flexibility to capture all relevant information from participants. For each scheduled site visit discussion, the NORC team prepared materials that highlighted outstanding questions to address during the meeting.
We begin summarizing findings from the site visit by providing an overview of the Alliance, including a description of its history, governance and organizational structure, key services and functions, involvement with health IT and future trajectory. We then focus on specific aspects of an EHR implementation conducted by the Alliance, including the process used to facilitate EHR adoption among member health centers; enablers and success factors for EHR implementation; challenges and barriers facing health centers adopting EHRs via the Alliance and the impact of EHR implementation on health centers, their clients and staff as well as health IT topics such as lab interfaces, e-prescribing (eRx), health information exchange (HIE), use of standards in the Alliance implementations and sustainability.
We end the report with a series of conclusions regarding our findings and initial conclusions for policy makers, program officials, health centers, health center networks and other stakeholders. Because this is one of several site visit reports that will be produced, we will present a more definitive and comprehensive set of conclusions and lessons learned as part of the final report for the project, which will synthesize and summarize findings across each of the sites.