Health Information Exchange Moves Industry Towards Interoperability
The two-year war against COVID-19 and its variants has highlighted the critical importance of health data. Collected and provided largely through Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) across the country, health data has helped hospitals, government agencies and other stakeholders track the geography and demographics of the pandemic and the status of vaccination.
Unfortunately, some of the health data gaps throughout the pandemic have also revealed where system-wide gaps need to be filled. Although nearly 9 out of 10 doctors in practice have embraced electronic health records – fueled in large part by a $35 billion investment from the 2009 HITECH program – many health systems still cannot easily share records with other health systems. With our existing technology, there is no good reason to “siln” this information, especially when data connections hold so much promise for improving the quality of healthcare, preventing medical errors, reducing healthcare costs health and promote patient-centred care.
Although the industry as a whole met or exceeded the goals set by the Office of the National Information Technology Coordinator in 2004, there is still much work to be done. That is why we call on health officials to invest more effort and resources in interoperability and the secure and transparent transfer of health data.
Interoperability is critical to future success
Simply put, the more provider organizations and other entities sharing health data, the better. To achieve the long-sought vision of full interoperability, health officials should follow the lead of federal agencies.
Last year, ONC pushed the healthcare industry in the right direction by releasing a 10 year vision achieve a truly interoperable health information technology infrastructure with a focus on value-based care. ONC encourages all stakeholders to increase interoperability and functionality as needed, seek a baseline to best meet user needs, support payment and delivery reforms, implement simplified solutions and protect privacy and security in all aspects of interoperability.
How HIEs “lead by example”
As federal policies strongly urge healthcare providers to jump on the interoperability bandwagon, more and more healthcare IT organizations are exploring ways to share knowledge and processes while benefiting from greater efficiency.
Over the past five years, more than 10 HEIs have consolidated through multiple paths; including mergers, joint ventures and shared services agreements. Much of this consolidation is occurring in states with multiple HIE players. As health watchers know, this is consistent with the broader consolidation within the industry as community hospitals become part of local health systems and these systems join regional and national systems.
Examples of HIE consolidation and collaboration can be found in Indiana (Indiana Health Information Exchange and Michiana Health Information Network), Nebraska and Iowa (CyncHealth and CyncHealth Iowa) and in Maryland, the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Connecticut and Alaska (CRISP Shared Services). Additionally, BeyondHIE was recently formed as a joint venture between the Utah Health Information Network (UHIN), the Idaho Health Data Exchange, Comagine Health, and an IT vendor health. In the West, Colorado-based CORHIO and Arizona-based Health Current came together in 2021 under the regional umbrella organization context.
Recently, the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) partnered with the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI) to train Civitas networks for health, an organization that aims to strengthen the existing data and interoperability infrastructure. Civitas represents more than 100 regional and national organizations in 45 states.
How Consolidation Benefits Health and Care
Just as healthcare IT organizations benefit from collaboration, interoperability will help the healthcare industry move in a positive direction by breaking down the aforementioned healthcare data silos, providing patients, providers and communities with a better longitudinal view of multiple health factors to improve health and well-being. .
This trend also reinforces the role of nonprofit and multi-stakeholder organizations serving as trustees of community data through the secure sharing and management of health data. HEIs have enormous potential to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors that provide different types of health services. – including tests, admission and transfer discharge data, laboratory results and radiological images. Sharing health data also holds great promise for helping communities identify and analyze the social determinants of health, that is, the factors that directly and indirectly influence outcomes.
Because privacy and security are absolutely essential in the transfer of healthcare data, HEIs share a common commitment to ensuring their processes meet key regulations and industry-defined requirements. At this point, a number of HIEs have achieved HITRUST certification status to manage risk and prevent security breaches.
Like other essential public services such as water and electricity, the data provided by HIEs plays a vital role in people’s lives. With continued collaboration, innovation, and public and private support, health data interoperability will demonstrate a vital value proposition beyond the walls of healthcare facilities.
As we have learned, in health care, pandemics know no borders, and neither does data.