Montana’s Big Sky Care Connect HIE Gains Momentum


The State of Montana has announced a $20 million investment to bolster its Big Sky Care Connect (BSCC) health information exchange.

Several years ago, the state used HITECH Act funding to begin creating a statewide HIE called HealthShare Montana, but that effort eventually faltered. In 2019 Gov. Steve Bullock announced that the state has received $19 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to support a new HIE effort.

Now there are more than 75 medical provider organizations and more than half of Montana hospital systems signed on as partners with Big Sky Care Connect. These organizations encompass more than 350 provider locations throughout the state.

Big Sky Care Connect (BSCC) CEO Ben Tyrrell said the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) connected its Medicaid claims system in November 2021. BSCC is working to add other payers. BSCC is also working with more than 40 additional providers to connect to the HIE.

Tyrrell said he’s hopeful more providers will enroll now that this contract is in place. “This investment should reassure providers that Montana is committed to providing a quality HIE well into the future,” he said.

In a statement, DPHHS Director Adam Meier said the bottom line is increasing efficiencies. “No matter where an individual is seeking treatment in Montana, it’s more efficient if providers can access patient health information at the point of care,” he said. “Once fully implemented, this platform will bring together every health care community across the state, and critical patient information will follow the patient when and where it is needed most.”

Meier acknowledges that, while there’s more work to do, access to a comprehensive patient medical record saves valuable time, which providers otherwise would spend searching for and retrieving a patient’s information, and gives providers more time with a patient.

Most of the funding will be allocated to continued design, development, and implementation of the current system, including work to build out the current technology, while also adding new participants and implementing new services. The development and implementation phase will continue through 2023. Due to support from DPHHS, the project was able to leverage $15 million in federal funds. Other funding sources include over $4 million in private contributions and $800,000 in state funds.

Other planned improvements to BSCC include:

  • Establishing a clinical data repository to improve provider data access for better care coordination. For example, if a family has been displaced to a different town due to a wildfire or adults are traveling out-of-state for work, providers will have access to their electronic health record.
  • A patient event alerting notification to improve provider care intervention. Notifications are generated when a patient experiences a significant event such as a hospital admission, discharge, or visit to the Emergency Room. Members of the patient’s care team can access these notifications so that proactive, timely, and cost-saving interventions can occur as these events happen.
  • Implementing a quality measurement program to improve provider quality metric reporting. Analytics fill in gaps and expose useful insight into patterns, markers, and other information relevant to the overall delivery of quality patient care. It also provides vital feedback to providers, plans, state agencies, and others invested in improving Montana’s overall health care delivery.
  • Facilitating the exchange of images to improve healthcare outcomes. BSCC will be able to facilitate the delivery of diagnostic images alongside the providers interpretive report so collaborating members of a patient’s medical team or those responding in an emergency will have access to their historical diagnostic images.

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