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New Jersey to Launch State Health Information Exchange Network

The statewide health information exchange network will link smaller HIEs, healthcare organizations, and state health databases.

New Jersey will launch a statewide health information exchange network.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) is teaming up with the New Jersey Department of Health to develop new infrastructure for improved patient health data exchange through the New Jersey Health Information Network (HIN).

NJ HIN will enable health data exchange across healthcare organizations, health information exchanges (HIEs), and state health databases.  

NJII — an affiliate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology — will develop the federal grant-funded HIN to improve interoperability and allow for better-informed clinical decision-making.

“There has long been a need to share information and get them out of silos in hospitals, physicians’ offices or long-term care facilities,” NJ HIN Executive Director Jim Cavanagh told ROI New Jersey. “Interoperability is a big issue right now with government in health care reform. It drives the ability to do population health management, as well as reducing health care costs and making it more efficient, too.”

The effort to launch NJ HIN began several years ago, Cavanagh said. Healthcare organizations in the Newark metro region will be the first to roll out the New Jersey HIN program.

READ MORE: HIE Use of ADT Notifications Jumped 95% Last Year at SHIN-NY

“It’s our combination of health care knowledge — the organization is really made up of people well-versed in health care policy, because we’ve been executives in hospitals and health care systems for many years — but also understanding technology and putting a focus on innovation and new ways of doing things,” Cavanagh said.

Cavanagh stated NJ HIN will be modeled after an HIN already proving successful for healthcare providers and patients in Michigan.

“Every state has something different in their scope, the interoperability they’ve been able to achieve and, frankly, the money they’ve spent on it,” said Cavanagh.

NJII executives cited mitigating costs associated with running the pilot program and storing massive amounts of health data as a top priority.

We’ve been talking to anyone and everyone about this; we want feedback from as many folks as we can,” Cavanagh said. “And some of the feedback has been around familiar barriers to interoperability, such as cost.”

READ MORE: HIEs Consider Joining Ambitious ONC Health Data Exchange Framework

NJII and the state health department intend to keep the program cost-efficient by leveraging data exchange capabilities and resources already available through existing HIEs in certain regions of New Jersey.

“We’re trying to avoid redundancies with those exchanges and making sure we’re not reinvesting needlessly in places where money was already spent,” stated Cavanagh. “We don’t want to duplicate efforts of other organizations. Instead, we want to get them to communicate with each other. So, we’re really building on those foundations and not redoing them.”

NJII also plans to innovate technologies that may equip providers with the health data necessary to reduce problems associated with opioid over-prescribing.

“Some of the ideas we’re working on now include an opioid risk factor measurement that pulls the right information from different parts of the health care continuum,” he said. “If a patient shows up in an emergency department, we may be able to raise a flag to a provider while the patient is there.”

NJII is also involved in the development of a health data exchange solution that may allow providers to access data in real-time.

READ MORE: HIE Use Cuts Costs, Increases Productivity in STI Treatment

“We’ve got our finger on the pulse of gigantic changes coming in health care, but, also, we’re well aware of historic problems that still need addressing,” Cavanagh said. “That could be things as simple as matching patient identity and making sure we get that right.”

NJII executives hope the project will serve as an example for other health IT innovators and HIEs to follow in the future. Cavanaugh stated NJ HIN is willing to work with other states to develop networks linking smaller HIEs and HINs for improved health data exchange across the country.

VAMC, Dartmouth Hitchcock to Share Veteran Patient Health Data

Elsewhere in health data exchange, White River Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) is teaming up with Dartmouth Hitchcock in New Hampshire to exchange veteran health data through the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Program.

Veterans receiving care at VA care site and Dartmouth Hitchcock locations in Vermont and New Hampshire will gain the ability to exchange EHR problem lists, allergy and medication information, immunization, and lab test results through VLER.

“It’s the 21st century, so let’s put our high technology to use serving this population,” said White River VAMC Community Coordinator Bruce Lyndes. “Connecting veterans’ medical records with their health care providers is a big step forward in better serving our Veterans, who certainly deserve it.”

The program is free and voluntary for veterans but requires written consent for patient participation.

“It’s convenient for the veteran and it’s easier for the health care provider to get an up-to-date medical record to assist in providing the best possible treatment for their patient,” said Dartmouth-Hitchcock Chief Health Information Officer Peter Solberg, MD.  

Patients that opt to participate in health data exchange must renew patient consent authorization every ten years. Veterans can opt out of exchange at any time.

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