San Luis Valley: A Community of Compassionate and Ambitious Health Care Providers

Date: August 17th, 2011Category: CORHIO e-NewsletterTopics: Colorado Hospitals & Health Systems

Alamosa Public Health Department is CORHIO's Newest Member; San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center "Live" on HIE

Spanning 8,000 square miles, the San Luis Valley is the world's largest alpine valley. It is known for its scenic beauty and natural surroundings, but it is also one of the poorest rural communities in Colorado. The geography of the Valley, as well as a large number of Medicaid and Medicare patients, creates a challenging environment for health care providers.

"Our courier travels up to 350 miles a day, delivering patient medical records to various providers to remote locations across the Valley" said Jamie Colwell, lab director and health information exchange (HIE) project manager at San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center (SLVRMC), the largest medical facility in the San Luis Valley with 59 beds and a Level IV Trauma Center.

Colwell explains that it is also difficult to recruit and retain physicians in San Luis Valley, so patients are often forced to switch providers frequently. In addition, there is a large indigent care population and a disproportionate number of Medicaid and Medicare patients. Since information isn't being shared efficiently, there is a lot of repeat testing. Because indigent patients, and those on Medicare and Medicaid often don't end up paying the true costs of the care delivered to them, repeat testing translates to more expense for providers to shoulder.

SLVRMC Now Live on the HIE

Since August 2nd, SLVRMC has been "live" on the HIE. "By joining CORHIO, SLVRMC now has a means of delivering information electronically. This eliminates repeat testing and saves money," said Colwell. "CORHIO has been so patient with us and worked with us so well, we've really enjoyed our relationship with them and want to continue on with them every step that we can."

Alamosa Public Health Department Joining the HIE Network

Alamosa Public Health Department is one of CORHIO's newest members. Its Home Health program serves all six counties of the Valley, which is home to more than 45,000 residents.

"We felt that it was important to join the HIE, because all of our partners are a part of the network," said Alamosa Public Health Department Director, Julie Geiser, R.N. "Since, we have to interact frequently with physicians, the HIE will help us do so in a more secure, efficient and timely way. Eventually, we'd like to use the HIE to report communicable diseases and to update the immunization registry."