Urban Health Plan Uses IT to Manage Quality Improvement and Rising Patient Volume in the South Bronx

ANN ARBOR, MI, November 13, 2013 – Electronic health records, and the data they contain, are helping Urban Health Plan (UHP) manage growth in services and care delivery in New York City’s South Bronx.

The organization is treating nearly 1,000 patients a day, and the use of IT has grown in tandem with patient volumes, care treatment sites and the number of diverse specialties that fill gaps in the community or enable UHP to provide easy access to care.

UHP executives have understood the importance of electronic health records for many years. It won the Nicholas E. Davies Award for Excellence in 2009. Now, four years later, the IT groundwork that’s already in place will be crucial as reform takes hold; care continuity and coordination will be critical to managing patients’ health and the organization’s bottom line.

UHP’s current use of information technology in providing care in the economically challenged South Bronx is the latest case study in a series by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

The study, entitled “IT Investments at Urban Health Plan Enable Improved Outcomes and Reduced Health Care Disparities,” looks at how UHP is anticipating the use of its information technology to better manage and improve the health of area residents.

“Our electronic health records enable the executive team to look at data from a broad perspective,” said Paloma Hernandez, president and CEO of UHP. “When data can be reported easily, you’re able to manage your organization differently than if you didn’t have EHRs. The ability to manage growth is also well-supported by IT. Without it, I don’t know how you could manage that growth.”

Economic challenges have persisted for decades in the Bronx, which, until recently, has seen a long-standing trend of many businesses leaving the area. Providers have left as well, as residents depend on UHP clinics for a wide range of services that are typically offered by separate providers in most communities.

“One thing we clearly saw as we went forward with EHRs was that whatever system we selected, it had to support our quality improvement work,” Hernandez said. UHP found a willing vendor in eClinicalWorks, which, in 2006, was a new company that was interested in having UHP install its electronic health records system in ambulatory clinic settings.

The use of information technology to provide reporting capabilities has helped UHP manage care and growth, as demand for care has skyrocketed, said Dan Figueras, who has served as UHP’s chief technology officer, a role through which he leads information technology implementations.

“We knew we needed structured data that could be created in any system we would have,” he said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to performance improvement. The underlying theory is that if we don’t run oversight on all the things required to run the organization, then we’re not doing our jobs. Gathering information and then feeding it back to clinicians is one of the key pieces we do here.”

UHP also uses data to determine what conditions it needs to address, and it develops a holistic approach, based on its data and closely monitored trial efforts. For example, it has developed its popular Fit for Life program to educate families with children younger than 4 to maintain a healthy weight and counteract unhealthy habits that can cause them to be overweight or obese when they grow up. About 2,000 children are enrolled in the program, and 96 percent of the children’s parents or caregivers receive nutrition education or counseling.

UHP emphasizes training to prepare its clinicians and others to use the EHR system, said Alison Connelly-Flores, senior medical information officer for UHP. “We have a new employee orientation every two weeks, and they’re learning the eClinicalWorks product and also our workflow at the same time,” she said. “It helps us standardize and to ensure the system is used in a uniform way.”

Clinicians cycle through an EHR residency with Dr. Jennifer Genuardi at the Bella Vista clinic. Her work with new EHR users ensures that they are trained to understand best practices for using the eClinicalWorks system. “All doctors go through there to see how we manage certain conditions, how we manage referrals, and other activities,” Connelly-Flores said.

Using Health IT to Stay Ahead of the Curve & Meet the Needs of the Underserved is the fifth/sixth?? in a series of case studies by CHIME, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based professional organization, which highlights the benefits and best practices of successful implementations of information technology.


The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is an executive organization dedicated to serving chief information officers and other senior healthcare IT leaders. With more than 1,400 CIO members and over 100 healthcare IT vendors and professional services firms, CHIME provides a highly interactive, trusted environment enabling senior professional and industry leaders to collaborate; exchange best practices; address professional development needs; and advocate the effective use of information management to improve the health and healthcare in the communities they serve. For more information, please visit www.cio-chime.org.

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