- New partnerships between health plan organizations and health data exchanges are paving the way for nationwide interoperability with some networks beginning that work at a more local level.
In Los Angeles County, health plan LA Care Health Plan worked with Safety Net Connect to connect 21 hospitals to its health information exchange following a successful pilot. The hospitals now have access to real-time data exchange and care coordination using the eConnect system.
The payer serving residents of the county sponsored the transition to the health data exchange platform.
“Based on the outcomes of a successful pilot, we began rolling out the eConnect platform to the high-volume hospitals in our network in August of 2015,” said L.A. Care CEO John Baackes. “Engaging twenty-one institutions in just over a year is a true testament to the value of this kind of data in improving outcomes for our hospital providers.”
The information sharing platform enables users to exchange real-time alerts using the HL7 Admit Discharge Transfer protocol. The eConnect system allows for efficient access to actionable data leading to improved care coordination.
The platform specifically addresses post-discharge management with the goal of reducing readmissions. With a more interoperable system in place, the plan is to improve overall patient care and ease the challenges inherent to patient transfers and discharges for providers.
In the midwest, a health data exchange initiative is also taking steps toward true interoperability.
Three health information exchanges working under the “Patient Centered Data Home Heartland Initiative” (PCDH), a larger organization devoted to improving interoperability, recently implemented a health data exchange agreement traversing several systems and separate states.
Among the health information exchanges involved in the coalition are the Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE), Michiana Health Information Network (MHIN), and East Tennessee Health Information Network (etHIN). All three health information exchanges aim to allow a patient’s electronic health records the ability to move seamlessly between providers.
“This is an exciting first step toward a much larger goal,” said IHIE President & CEO John Kansky. “At the completion of this pilot, we’ll be exchanging health information among seven HIEs and across five states.”
The program uses a standards-based approach to facilitate a cost-efficient program focused on improving patient care.
The Heartland Initiative should prove particularly advantageous for tourists visiting East Tennessee.
“The Heartland Project will allow us to notify the patient’s home health information exchange that a patient living there was treated in the etHIN region. Knowing about medical events that occur outside their local area will allow the hometown physicians to build a more complete patient medical record, thus providing more informed care for their patients,” said Leigh Sterling, Executive Director of etHIN.
Programs such as the Heartland Initiative that promote collaboration between several HIE’s contribute to the larger effort to improve interoperability nationwide.
“Each of our organizations is successfully exchanging healthcare data with providers in our own communities,” said Kelly Hahaj, CEO of MHIN. “It makes sense that the next evolution is to connect our networks to enable a person’s medical information to be available whenever and wherever care occurs, appropriately and securely.”
Similarly, Hixny, a New-York based health data exchange organization, recently announced it is joining forces with the University of Vermont Medical Center to bring New York healthcare providers improved health data exchange.
Data on New York patients collected by providers at UVM Medical Center will now be accessible to providers in the Empire State. Considering six percent of UVM patients reside in New York, this opportunity for health information sharing is expected to yield significant benefits.
“At the end of the day, patients choose where they want to go, regardless of state boundaries,” said Mark McKinney, CEO at Hixny. “The patient deserves to have their information available wherever they go. It’s in their best interest, and the providers’ best interest, for Hixny to make this connection with one of the Northeast’s foremost medical centers.”
UVM Medical Center is also affiliated with Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, Elizabethtown Community Hospital, and Alice Hyde Medical Center through the University of Vermont Health Network.
“What we want to offer is a complete electronic health record for everyone in the region we serve, including those who live near the boundaries of our service area,” said Bryan Cudmore, Hixny’s Vice President of Account Management.
According to US News & World Report survey data from 2015, UVM Medical Center hosted 61,880 emergency room patients, 20,491 admissions, and 21,797 surgeries. Involving a hospital of this size in the effort toward improving health IT interoperability is a sizable step towards optimizing health data exchange.
Elsewhere in health data exchange, a slackening of New York state health information policies now allows for providers part of HealtheLink to access health data for minors between 10 and 17 years of age With a parent’s signed consent, minors can be part of Western New York’s health information exchange, allowing different providers access to their electronic health records for improved patient care.