Colorado Health Information Exchange Made Possible by AHRQ Contract

Health IT
February 2013

San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center, a rural hospital in Alamosa, Colorado, is one of 28 hospitals and several hundred other providers in Colorado that can seamlessly exchange patients' medical information electronically to help improve health care quality and reduce costs. The progress toward implementing a statewide health information exchange (HIE) in Colorado stems from an AHRQ contract to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 2004, which developed a point-of-care inquiry system for emergency room clinicians at four health care organizations in the Denver area.

In addition to the point-of-care data exchange which allowed emergency clinicians from the four original partner organizations to quickly access patients' medical histories, medications, x-rays, and problem lists the AHRQ contract also helped accelerate the formation of the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO), a nonprofit organization that manages and maintains the technology infrastructure that supports secure, efficient clinical data sharing among Colorado health care providers. CORHIO is spearheading collaborative efforts among providers to exchange health information for improved patient care.

Russ Johnson, MHA, Chief Executive Officer of San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center, says, "The AHRQ funding was vital to this initial pilot. It helped make HIE 'real' and build momentum with key partners involved."

At the start of the 5-year pilot project, there were no standard models for sharing data at the point of care. CORHIO and the four partners under the contract The Children's Hospital (now known as Children's Hospital Colorado), Denver Health and Hospital Authority, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, and University of Colorado Hospital developed the technical capacity to securely link together large, complex systems.

While San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center was not part of the AHRQ contract, it and hundreds of other Colorado providers and their patients are benefitting from the work initiated under the contract. That work helped to lay a foundation for the development and implementation of statewide HIE. To that end, in August 2011, San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center was among the first hospitals to begin uploading patient information, including patient admission, discharge, and transfer data as well as laboratory and radiology results, into the CORHIO HIE.

As of late 2012, 28 hospitals, ranging from rural hospitals to Centura Health, the State's largest hospital system, were connected to HIE. More than 600 office-based physicians and advanced practice clinicians; 27 long-term care, skilled nursing, home health, and hospice facilities; and three behavioral health centers also have "live" connections to CORHIO. In less than 2 years, CORHIO now manages information on more than 1.8 million unique patients, which represents about 30 percent of the population of Colorado. CORHIO's goals include deploying HIE in every Colorado community by 2015.

HIE improves health care providers' ability to administer timely and effective patient care with accurate and updated patient information at the point of care. HIE is shown to save lives in emergency situations, reduce costs, and improve patient satisfaction.

At San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center, Johnson says, "HIE will be a huge help in keeping our rural residents safe and healthy." The 49-bed hospital in Alamosa, a town of 9,500, serves an area nearly the size of New Jersey, with some of Colorado's poorest counties. The hospital is a point of origin in the State for airlifted care. By putting patients' data into CORHIO, patients benefit because the facilities they are transferred to can access their medical records. When patients come back to the community or to San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center, clinicians have details of the care, tests, and medicines patients received elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Johnson says his hospital "is building the model that will be used statewide for electronic reportable conditions." As CORHIO's pilot site for electronic reportable conditions, San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center developed a flagging system that automatically notifies the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) of a reportable laboratory result. He says, "When more laboratories electronically notify CDPHE of reportable events rather than relying on people to send this information or not by phone and fax, the CDPHE will be able to better and more quickly identify outbreaks as well as trends in public health."

For more information on CORHIO, visit

Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Health IT Demo Projects
Topics(s): Rural Health
Geographic Location: Colorado
Implementer: Colorado Health Information Exchange
Date: 02/01/2013

Health Information Technology: State and Regional Demonstration Projects. Fact Sheet. AHRQ Publication No. 10-P011, August 2010. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Page last reviewed February 2013