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Health Information Exchange Partnerships Extend Data Sharing

Several health information exchanges are teaming up to improve information sharing across state lines.

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

A series of partnerships among health information exchanges will extend the range of several networks to provide health data for patients receiving care in multiple states.

Earlier this week, Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) and Health Information Exchange Texas (HIETexas) became connected partners through the eHealth Exchange, the nationwide health information network run by The Sequoia Project.

The leaders of KHIN and HIETexas — which is overseen by Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) — stressed that the HIE-to-HIE connection should prove a boon for patients receiving care in both Kansas and Texas.  

“Many Kansas patients receive care in Texas. This connection helps to ensure that Texas physicians have all of the patients’ health records from Kansas and vice versa,” said KHIN Executive Director Laura McCrary, EdD.

"The connection between HIETexas and KHIN will enhance medical care by connecting hundreds of hospitals and thousands of doctors across state lines," added THSA CEO George Gooch. "Many Kansas residents travel to Texas for advanced medical treatments at one of the state’s world-class medical facilities and this connection will allow those patients’ healthcare providers to have immediate access to information they need to make better informed decisions."

The eHealth Exchange, formerly the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN), has emerged a vehicle for bridging connections between various information sharing organizations. Even within a single HIE as in the case of Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) which is using the eHealth Exchange to segregate clinical and behavioral health data to comply with federal and state privacy laws.

As CORHIO Behavioral Health Information Exchange Coordinator Toria Thompson recently told HealthITInteroperability.com last month, the eHealth Exchange serves as a useful go-between for the network's ONC-funded pilot to demonstrate the feasibility of its proposed approach to enabling behavioral health data exchange.

"We're basically building a second data store — a second HIE if you will — and using The Sequoia Project eHealth Exchange HIE-to-HIE query protocols. So we are essentially tricking our HIE to treat the behavioral data as part of a separate HIE," Thompson stated. "That's the first piece you have to figure out how to do if your vendor doesn't enable the kind of segmentation — you have to make it up and that's how we chose to do that."

Elsewhere in interstate health data exchange efforts, several HIEs in the Midwest will connect as part of an ONC initiative to pilot a concept known as the Patient Centered Data Home.

Joining forces for The Heartland Project are the following health information exchanges:

  • Great Lakes Health Connect (GLHC)
  • The Health Collaborative
  • Indiana Health Information Exchange
  • HealthLINC
  • East Tennessee Health Information Network
  • Michiana Health Information Network
  • Kentucky Health Information Exchange

The group of HIEs will work with the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) to pilot the Patient Centered Data Home over the next year.

"As a partner in the advancement of health information technology to help improve healthcare, GLHC is proud to partner with The Health Collaborative, SHIEC and other HIEs to advance network sharing across state lines,” said GLHC Executive Director Doug Dietzman. “We are proud to participate in efforts that support a system-wide sharing of health information with the aim of improving the quality of healthcare delivery, increasing patient safety, decreasing medical errors, and strengthening the interaction between patients and healthcare providers."

The Heartland Project has as its target enabling providers to locate and access in real-time patient health data stored on HIEs.

“We are proud to be part of a network of regional technology pioneers advancing heath information exchange. It was the foresight of our local health systems’ leaders some 15 years ago that lead us to this place where we are viewed as leaders in collaborative digital health solutions,” added The Health Collaborative CEO Craig Brammer.

The funding for the project comes by way of $1.5 million in grants awarded by ONC late last month.

“We are excited to support these innovative projects that advance the use of common standards to improve care, particularly in the categories of comprehensive medication management, laboratory data exchange, and care coordination,” National Coordinator  Vindell Washington, MD, MHCM, said in an official announcement. “These programs will serve as key building blocks for improving the patient and provider experience with the flow of health information.”

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