Health network's software to extend communication among providers

Tess McInnis is the project manager for Quality Health Network in Grand Junction. She says the new software platform "is a powerful tool that makes the user's life easier."

Quality Health Network already helps connect most of the health care entities in western Colorado, but the Grand Junction company's latest attempt to improve coordination among social service, mental health and medical providers is garnering some national attention.

QHN is working on a Community Resource Network, a software platform that can help various providers better coordinate different types of care for individuals in the area. QHN plans to launch the network in January 2020.

"Providers don't connect as well with each other as many assume and much less than people would like," QHN Executive Director Dick Thompson said. "It's been a problem for years."

The effort has caught the eye of the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which recently named the project as a semifinalist for its Social Determinants of Health Innovation Challenge. QHN is one of five semifinalists out of 110 original candidates.

The company receives $5,000 as a semifinalist and could earn $50,000 if it takes home the grand prize. The next phase of the challenge is later this summer.

The multimillion-dollar Community Resource Network project is not dependent on the grant, but Thompson said it would serve as great recognition for western Colorado and the Grand Valley.

The software is designed by QHN and Stella Technology and is geared toward identifying which organizations and providers are helping an individual with services. It also shows what needs are lacking and can help avoid duplication of services.

Community members can also log in and see what they have for services and what they still need. Individuals must opt in to be part of the network, and barriers are set up to protect their medical information.

"It can identify unmet needs, and the tool has a resource directory to see who else can help," QHN Project Manager Tess McInnis said. "It's a powerful tool that makes the user's life easier."

Thompson said QHN has spent years trying to better connect the area when it comes to care.

"We've been breaking down silos for information for years. The Community Resource Network is the next iteration of that work," he said. "Our approach is to tackle and connect all those folks providing those services together so that we fill the gaps."

Local organizations such as Mesa County Public Health, the Grand Junction Housing Authority, area hospitals and others provided input on what they would like to see included in the platform.

McInnis said the network will provide an ability for local providers helping a person to communicate within the platform for convenience.

Grand Junction Housing Authority Chief Operating Officer Scott Aker said he feels the community and local providers will benefit greatly from the new network.

"I have long believed that the myriad of organizations that serve this community should work to communicate with each other better," Aker said. "Not that we don't (communicate) now, but this platform provides consistency and efficiency to being able to communicate and better serve the people we serve."

Sarah Robinson, program integration manager for Mesa County Public Health, has also provided input for the network and felt that such a platform could help people coordinate their own care.

"I think it will increase efficiencies in providing care. Right now we expect a community member to hold all info about agencies they are working with. This is a way to streamline and make it more efficient," Robinson said.

She also highlighted the need to prioritize those most at risk.

"Right now agencies do that independently," she said. "To do that across agencies will help people most in need."

The Community Resource Network rollout will be limited to western Colorado early next year.

Thompson said he's already received interest from the Front Range and hopes it can have an impact nationwide and help improve the overall health of communities.

"Once people in need discover that they can get help quickly, they'll be less reluctant to ask for additional help they need," he said.