CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee today announced a formal partnership with the State of Tennessee’s TennCare Bureau to revolutionize health care delivery by utilizing technology to help reduce medical errors, avoid duplicate services and detect fraud and abuse.

The program, operated by Shared Health, a fully owned BlueCross subsidiary, creates a patient-centered community health record that allows multiple providers treating the same patient to view that patient’s medical information via a secure Web site. The name of this program is Community Connection.

A contract with the State of Tennessee was approved by the State on June 29. Shared Health will begin offering Community Connection to BlueCross’ TennCare (Tennessee’s managed Medicaid plan) members this summer. The opportunity will be extended to all TennCare members (approximately one million people) by the end of the year.

In 2006, Shared Health services will be expanded and offered to more than 2.8 million commercial customers of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, and soon thereafter, to all Tennesseans. It also will be made available to other insurers.

Shared Health is collaborating with other health technology initiatives being undertaken throughout Tennessee. The goals are that the Community Connection services can be used by those initiatives to create a comprehensive statewide system.

“There has been a lot of attention lately devoted to the pivotal role of technology in providing more efficient, effective health care in our country,” said Jana Skewes, president and CEO of Shared Health. “We believe Shared Health has the potential to position Tennessee as a successful model that will enable every state to benefit from this approach. It represents the future of health care.”

Shared Health’s Community Connection has been successfully tested over the past several months in pilot projects throughout the state. The program provides doctors and clinicians with access to relevant personal health transaction data via a sophisticated, secure Internet system. Information available through the system includes claims data, lab results, dispensed medications, immunization information, some Medicaid well-child screening documentation, and general information, such as the name and phone number of the patient’s primary physician.

“This is an opportunity to improve TennCare patients’ quality of care and provide clinical information to our provider community at the point of care,” said TennCare Bureau deputy commissioner, J.D. Hickey. “Raising that bar for the rest of the state is an exciting prospect we’re proud to be a part of.”

Under the contract signed with the State of Tennessee, the Community Connection program for TennCare enrollees will be made available to the state at no charge for the initial year. Subsequently, there will be a charge based on the number of enrollees. Estimates are that for every dollar spent on Community Connection records, there is a savings of $3 to $4 in health care costs. There is no charge to providers or patients.

“This is a major part of an effort by BlueCross to continually explore and improve access, delivery and administrative processes in order to support the best possible health care outcomes for everyone,” said Vicky Gregg, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “Shared Health, working in collaboration with other state health care technology initiatives, promises to make health care much more efficient, and therefore more affordable.”

Shared Health’s Community Connection program meets all HIPAA and other privacy regulations and all information is transmitted securely.

BlueCross plans to invest more than $25 million over the next three years, with future investments as needed.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has established Shared Health as a new company that will make its capabilities available to all health insurers and health benefit administrators in the state. Shared Health is headed by Skewes and will receive BlueCross BlueShield corporate oversight by Dr. Steven Coulter, president of governmental programs and emerging markets. The Cerner Corporation of Kansas City is providing the application services including software for the Shared Health program.

Shared Health and Community Connection are trademarks of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.