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The Sequoia Project Further Expands Health Data Exchange

The eHealth Exchange and Carequality continue to make strides to improve the efficiency and reach of health data exchange.

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

The Sequoia Project’s recent health IT partnership with the Social Services Administration (SSA) and Department of Veteran Affairs is the latest of series of achievements for health data exchange over the year.

To commemorate Veterans Day, the non-profit organization focused on nationwide health data exchange announced a health IT initiative to use the eHealth Exchange as a means of improving disability determinations for veterans. Through the initiative, Social Security disability case processing sites will have electronic access to VA medical records.

"Currently, when eligible Veterans apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits the average wait time for Social Security to receive paper records from VA can take months; this partnership allows Social Security and VA to share the Veteran's health information electronically in minutes,” said VA Under Secretary for Health David Shulkin, MD. “The Social Security and VA partnership allows VA to continue to be a leader in interoperability efforts among federal partners while improving overall quality of life for our Veteran patients."

The Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) will help process VA patient requests for social security disability benefits. Annually, SSA requests almost 15 million medical records for its 3 million disability claims. Savings should come in the form of time.

“The military population has unique care needs due to their types of injuries as well as the mobile nature of deployments,” added Michael Matthews, eHealth Exchange Coordinating Committee Member and Board Chair for The Sequoia Project.  “Regardless of what a patient is being treated for or where they are being treated, collaboration with the private sector via the eHealth Exchange helps deliver effective care for veterans, servicemen and women as well as their families.”

The Sequoia Project has also worked with the Department of Defense’s Military Health System to enable health data exchange with the private sector via the eHealth Exchange.

The eHealth Exchange has become a valuable tool for handling complex health data exchange cases. For instance, the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) is developing a pilot program for behavioral health data exchange leveraging the nationwide HIE. As a result of federal regulations, behavioral health data must be handled separately from other health data.

To keep clinical and behavioral health data separate, CORHIO will be setting up a second data store and managing communications between the two through the eHealth 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," CORHIO’s Behavioral Health Information Exchange Coordinator Toria Thompson told HealthITInteroperability.com.

The eHealth Exchange is but one-half of the whole at The Sequoia Project. Carequality and its interoperability framework are also making strides to improve the interoperability of health IT system and services to improve health data exchange.

Since the announcement of health data exchange using framework going live in August at 3,000 clinics and 200 hospitals, Carequality-enabled information sharing now takes place at more than 11,000 clinics and 500 hospitals and the number of care documents shared has eclipsed more than 50,000.

The increases are the result from buy-in from major EHR and HIE organizations, such as Epic Systems. Prior to this latest announcement, Epic’s Vice President of Interoperability Peter DeVault applauded the Carequality Interoperability Framework for driving health data exchange upward.

"Our numbers — as well as the numbers of other vendors that have participated in the Carequality framework  — have significantly increased even in the couple of weeks since the press release," DeVault explained. "Today we have, just among our own customers, over 300 hospitals and 6,600 clinics connected to any other Carequality participants."

It’s a remarkable achievement achieving given that Epic along with athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, Epic Systems, HIETexas, NextGen and Surescripts signed on to implement the framework this past January.

Clearly, The Sequoia Project’s two-pronged approach is working.

Dig Deeper:

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