- HealthlinkNY, the health information exchange (HIE) in central New York, continues to cement its position as one of the leading health information networks currently in operation.
A recent study used the HIE headquartered in Binghamton to measure whether functioning HIEs actually improve patient care and found conclusive evidence HIEs help reduce the length of patient stay, readmission risk, and number of doctors involved in patient visits.
According to these three metrics, HIE use significantly improves patient care and health outcomes across the board, setting the standard for other HIEs to follow.
“We’re not a technology company, we’re a workflow company,” HealthlinkNY President and CEO Christina Galanis recently told EHRIntelligence.com. “We’re trying to provide lower cost, more effective, quicker access to data providers need for their workflows.”
Since the implementation of the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY) which connects the various health information networks throughout the state, clinicians and patients in the state have reaped the benefits of a connected, secure network while also working to close gaps in care and improve coordinated care.
State regulation mandating an HIE connection has pushed SHIN-NY to the front of the pack in the effort to optimize EHR workflows and health data exchange.
“People are a little envious of us because our hospitals didn’t have a choice,” said Galanis. “By regulation they all had to connect to us by March 9 of this year. We’re now starting on the second wave, which is behavioral health, hospice, nursing homes, diagnostics and treatment centers, and long term care. They’re on the same regulation but they have one more year to connect.”
Mandating all hospitals connect to the statewide HIE ensures all patients and providers enjoy the advantages of truly interoperable data sharing across hospitals and regions in New York. With the benefit of outside funding, HealthlinkNY is able to add other hospitals and providers into its 13 county network spanning the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Southern Tier of New York at a relatively low cost.
“We encourage and work with customers to create gateway models and CMS floats funding to create gateways,” noted Galanis. “When I want to add a practice to the network, it’s a two-week project. It’s very inexpensive and it can be done quickly.”
HealthlinkNY’s ability to quickly and efficiently connect providers its network and by extension SHIN-NY is the mark of a mature HIE that has demonstrated value to healthcare providers and their patients. With so much experience giving providers access to health information across the state, HealthlinkNY has managed to expand its services to address provider needs for population health management, health data analytics, and discharge planning among others.
“You can’t create a cookie cutter HIE or EMR.We are flexible enough to deliver the amount of data providers want whether it’s response time, discharge planning, or anything else to improve the provider’s side of things,” said Galanis.
“For example, recently we were working with a statewide group in long term care and home care,” she continued. “They told us it’s not that useful to get an alert when someone’s just gotten discharged. They’re in a wheel chair on their way to the parking lot at that point. So we’re working on finding that provider the type of triggered event we can code that would allow for a pre-discharge alert. That way these providers can get in gear and get their plans ready 24 to 48 hours before the patient gets discharged.”
Services such as these, which are not traditionally offered services of a younger HIE, are what make HealthlinkNY an exceptional organization capable of meeting unique patient and provider needs.
HealthlinkNY intends to extend its capabilities to offer services uniquely tailored to specific provider needs in population health management, particularly addressing demographics with unique challenges to receiving quality care.
“We’re about to release a study on emergency department use on our data and being able to care for the high-cost, high-acuity patients that both the Medicaid and district projects are focused on,” said Galanis. “These are the folks that have a lot of information, and it’s important to analyze this information and stratify it. Understand how these patients learn, how they comply. Again, there needs to be an analytics component that helps you understand the patient and layer other data over. Situations where patients don’t have any transportation where they live or access to fresh grocery stores in their area. With the population health side of data analytics, we’re working on projects to try to close those gaps in care.”
Tackling research projects with the wealth of data available to the HIE is one of the many ways HealthlinkNY concentrates its resources on projects outside those services considered the norm for any health information network.
With patient data dating back to 2001, HealthlinkNY provides de-identified patient data extracted from its records to research studies in several different areas of healthcare delivery and management.*
With such a strong track record of reliable secure health data exchange and unique services to meet provider demands, HealthlinkNY is optimistic about continued growth in the future.
“We hope to be really helpful in the effort toward care coordination. Our biggest gap is prescription fill data, but we hope to fill in these gaps soon,” Galanis concluded.
With so many approaches to optimizing HIE services for its community, HealthlinkNY sets the bar high for all other HIEs hoping to follow suit.
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this article referred to an opt-in data sharing consent system for patients contributing data to the HIE when instead they must give their consent to allow providers to look up their medical records in the HIE.