CHIP receives donation from BlueCross

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff
jlassiter@starhq.com

  BlueCross BlueShield antied up $300,000 in a challenge grant on Thursday in an effort to engage the entire region with the goals of the Community Health Improvement Project (CHIP).
  CHIP, a grassroots community initiative project, centers around improving the health of the region and bringing quality care to patients. Project Team Chair of CHIP and the Data Exchange Project, Dr. David Reagan, said during the meeting on Thursday that the organization is trying to address the fragmentation of the regional health care system.
  "This challenge grant says BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee believes in the mission behind CHIP and the Care Data Exchange. They believe it will lead to better treatments, better outcomes and better health for the entire region," said Reagan, who also serves as the assistant chief of staff for ambulatory care at the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home.
  CHIP is collaborating with partners across the region to implement an information exchange database which would essentially increase the efficiency of the use of health resources in our region.
  The information network would allow physicians, with patient permission, to pass information within a 14-county area. The grassroots effort, comprised of the region's key healthcare, business and community partners, has the potential to break down barriers and provide a health information system involving approximately 700,000 residents, 18 hospitals and 1,200 physicians.
  According to Executive Director of Kingsport Tomorrow and CHIP Liesa Jenkins, they have already received in excess of $133,000 in grant money from local businesses.
  "We are a pay-as-you-go kind of project and we still have a long way to go," said Jenkins.
  With an estimated budget of $4 million over the next two years, CHIP's strategies include creating a Care Data Exchange to allow health professionals timely access to patient information, decision support to encourage best practices by providing the most current medical knowledge at the point of care, and public health tracking to query, compile and monitor identified aggregate data on key health indicators for our region.
  CHIP has been called a national model by some because it's the first of its kind nationwide. Although there are other similar community projects, none of them are centered around improving the health of the community, said HealthAlliant's Executive Director Ben Wilson.
  "This partnership of industry, employers, health providers and city leaders is what is needed to improve the quality of healthcare delivery in our country," said Dr. Bruce Taffel, Regional Medical Director for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. "The Tri-Cities community is setting the example, and BlueCross is proud to be a part of this effort."
  Compared to any other industry, the medical industry is lagging behind. According to Taffel, 30 billion health care transactions are made each year and 90 percent of them are done by paper, phone or fax. "This robust vision will allow patients to benefit," said Taffel.
  The challenge grant will match any donated community funds without including state and federal grants. For every $2 raised by CHIP, BlueCross BlueShield will donate $1 up to the maximum contribution of $300,000. The grant is time-sensitive and expires on Dec. 21, 2004. For those interested in responding to this challenge, tax-deductible charity contributions can be sent to:
  CHIP Care Data Exchange, c/o Kingsport Tomorrow
  P.O. Box 980
  Kingsport,TN 37662