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Michigan's Two Largest Health Info Exchanges Announce Merger Plans

(Updated at 4:45 p.m. with interview with Michigan Health Connect executive director Doug Dietzman.)

SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) -- Michigan's two largest online health information exchanges announced merger plans Monday.

East Lansing-based Great Lakes Health Information Exchange and Grand Rapids-based Michigan Health Connect said their boards have approved a letter of intent to merge operations. The two organizations said the due diligence process preceding the merger is expected to be completed by March 31.

If it happens, the merger will involve more than 2,000 provider offices and more than 100 hospitals.

Electronic exchange of medical records allows doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals to better coordinate a patient's complete health record, in a secure manner, no matter where the patient seeks treatment.

Michigan Health Connect executive director Doug Dietzman said it isn't yet known whether GLHIE or MHC will be the surviving organization after the merger, or what the new organization's name will be.

He said MHC has 15 employees and GLHIE has 14. He said there were no immediate plans for layoffs in the merger. "There's plenty of work for us both to do," he said.

MHC was established in 2009 and formed a nonprofit corporation in 2010. It has the Catholic health systems Ascension and Trinity among its clients, as well as Royal Oak-based Beaumont and Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health. GLHIE has University of Michigan Hospitals and Lansing-based Sparrow Health System among its clients. Both organizations charge fees for their services, and MHC is also a membership-based organization that charges a membership fee.

Dietzman said the two organizations have been talking merger in general terms for years. "It's been an ongoing question to both organizations and the state when this was going to occur," he said. "The conversation has always been bubbling." He said talks toward this agreement officially began last fall.

In a statement, Michigan Health Connect board chair Patrick O'Hare said, "Millions of Michigan residents will receive better care and achieve greater levels of personal health as a result of this merger. Combining the talent and resources of those two organizations makes perfect sense for Michigan at this time."

Also in a statement, Great Lakes Health Information Exchange board chair Dr. Brian McCardel said, "This is the right thing to do for our participating providers and their parents. This merger means that we can maximize collaboration between providers across Michigan through robust, integrated exchange of clinical information."

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