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From the Top - Initiate Systems

From the Top is a Q&A with key executives in the medical technology sectors. This interview is with Initiate Systems' Lorraine Fernandes, Senior Vice President, Healthcare Practice

MTJ: What is the current focus of your company's business?
Fernandes: Initiate Systems, Inc. is a leading provider of master data management software for creating complete, accurate and real-time views of data spread across multiple systems or databases with a high level of security and confidentiality.

Initiate Systems is well-known in the healthcare IT sector for its high-performing enterprise master person index (EMPI) that provides an accurate unified view of patient or member's total history. Initiate® Software supports patient and provider identification, matching, and data linking across the healthcare systems to include providers, retail pharmacy, data exchange, payers, etc. This allows organizations to create a holistic view of patient data, to help them improve patient safety, ensure regulatory compliance, increase profitability and gain competitive advantage.

MTJ: How has this focus changed in the last 2 years?
Fernandes: Data explosion: The explosion of electronic data means organizations need to harness their data in order to achieve business and patient care objectives. Data about patients is disbursed in hospitals, labs, clinical or provider systems making it increasingly difficult to get a comprehensive view.

Interoperability: Exchanging data to improve the quality, safety, and cost effectiveness of healthcare necessitates interoperability based upon standards and open architecture. Initiate continues to advance its products to support data exchange/sharing between integrated delivery networks (IDN), payers, or health authorities - regional, state, or provincial.

Compliance: During the past two years Initiate participated in all four National Health Information Network (NHIN) demonstration projects, numerous RHIO or health exchange organizations. Initiate® software is licensed to eight of the Canadian provinces for their foundational Client Registry initiative and will be used in at least six of the NHIN 2 projects. Initiate software participates as a patient identification "backbone" for Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) showcase and supports HIPAA patient privacy requirements.

MTJ: What are your current initiatives?
Fernandes: In October 2007, the company launched Initiate Patient™ and Initiate Provider™ to compliment the move to more consumer-oriented healthcare market.

Initiate continues to be a leader in the data exchange space with our federated model that allows data to reside in the origination points, thus allowing greater control over patient data, supporting privacy, security, and patient preferences.

We continue to push our products to greater heights of accuracy and scalability; our software supports deployments with hundreds of million or even billions of records.

MTJ: How has your market segment changed over the last year?
Fernandes: Customer satisfaction is driving many organizations to look at managing data more strategically. Patients expect not to have to repeat their information at every point in the delivery system, and they want their data available to support current and future care, while being managed in a secure and private fashion. The retail pharmacy and pharmacy benefits management space, for example, largely uses Initiate® software for this very reason, ensuring that you have the right patient and a complete view of their data, thus saving money and improving patient safety.

Easing of the Stark regulations has allowed the integrated delivery networks to recognize the power of data and look at ways to share more information electronically, thus benefiting the patient and the physician.

Data exchange, both in Canada and the US, is advancing rapidly and the foundation to these initiatives is accurate patient identification and data linkage. This fundamental principle is understood by the market. Without proper patient identification and matching, the desired results anticipated from spending billions of dollars in creating electronic medical records and data sharing will not be achieved.

MTJ: What are the greatest challenges for your customers in adopting and implementing technology for your customers?
Fernandes: Customers are frustrated with closed architecture of many vendors and the lack of interoperability that creates. This is particularly apparent when IDNs are trying to create a complete picture of patient data between the inpatient systems and the physicians' practices they may own.

MTJ: How are you helping your customers address these challenges?
Fernandes: Initiate supports interoperability through standards compliance (HL7 including v3, and IHE), multiple SDKs (Java, c++, web services) that allow customers and partners to deploy and readily integrate all systems in their enterprise. We use our APIs in our product development and make those same APIs available to integrators and customers, thus they can create that common view of patient data.

MTJ: Describe your company's position in the industry with regard to the solutions you deliver.
Fernandes: Initiate Systems is a leader in the area of patient identification and data linking in Canada and the US healthcare and a thought leader as evidence by our testimony to NCVHS, and participation in NHIN demonstration projects and frequent public speaking and publishing activities.

Initiate System is firmly committed to the IHE standards for patient identification and matching, and we are the only vendor who demonstrated HL7V3 at the 2007 HIMSS Interoperability showcase.

Initiate Systems is highly regarded by analyst and research groups including Forrester Research, Gartner, and KLAS. Our ongoing product commitment to scalability, accuracy, and architectural flexibility serves customers well, as they can readily adapt to the data explosion.

MTJ: What do you believe to be the state of the industry in terms of growth, maturity, and availability of viable products to address the technology needs of the medical community?
Fernandes: True interoperability is just starting and will require many years of development and deployment before the full benefits will be seen.

Certification and standards harmonization hold great potential in future years, with vendors who embrace this shift having a bright future.

MTJ: What advice would you offer to organizations attempting to implement any technology projects?
Fernandes: Develop a partnership approach with your vendor to ensure project outcomes are achieved. This means knowing your baseline datapoints, careful planning and consistent, clear communication for both parties. Knowing and trusting your "baseline" datapoints is critical to ensuring that project benefits are initially validated, achieved at project completion, and the investment goals are reached.

Image Lorraine Fernandes, RHIA, RHIT - Senior Vice President, Healthcare Practice, Initiate Systems

As senior vice president of Initiate Systems' Healthcare Practice, Lorraine is responsible for overall customer satisfaction of our healthcare customer base and managing relationships with industry influencers at the regional and national level. Lorraine frequently speaks at industry conferences on topics such as regional health information organizations (RHIO), health data exchange, patient identification issues and best practices for master patient index (MPI) clean up. In addition, she serves on committees and workgroups for HIMSS, AHIMA, EHealth Initiatives and NAHIT.

Lorraine works closely with current and prospective clients, ranging from insurance to pharmaceutical companies and providers of healthcare products or services, on customizing solutions to customer data integration (CDI) and enterprise master patient index (EMPI) challenges. She understands the needs of both single facility providers and large enterprise delivery systems, and the importance of data quality and patient identification related to patient safety, customer satisfaction and electronic health records.
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