Three health information exchanges in the Midwest are exchanging patient data in a significant step forward to develop and test a Patient Centered Data Home that could serve as a model for exchanging data between HIEs nationwide.
The initiative is part of a larger pilot funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to improve interoperability between HIEs. It’s the third and largest pilot for the Strategic HIE Collaborative (SHIEC), which is advancing the Patient Centered Data Home effort.
Organizers believe the approach can eventually tie together the 48 HIEs that are members of SHIEC.
The Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE), Michiana Health Information Network (MHIN) and East Tennessee Health Information Network (etHIN) are exchanging information reached an agreement to enable data-sharing among their HIEs, ensuring that a patient’s healthcare record follows them wherever they seek care.
Those HIEs, and four others, are part of the PCDH Heartland initiative. The goal is for all seven to eventually patient data, enabling providers using those exchanges to access that information.
The Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative is a national trade association for HIEs that is acting as the project lead. The other pilots are already in production. SHIEC is a not-for-profit national consortium of statewide, regional and community health information exchanges and a trade association that assists member organizations through the exchange of ideas and business practices as well as through public education and advocacy.
“This is an exciting first step toward a much larger goal,” said John Kansky, president and CEO of IHIE, which is based in Indianapolis. “At the completion of this pilot, we’ll be exchanging health information among seven HIEs and across five states.”
Other Heartland partners include Great Lakes Health Connect (Grand Rapids, Mich.), HealthLinc (Bloomington, Ind.), the Kentucky Health Information Exchange (Frankfort), and The Health Collaborative (Cincinnati).
Each of SHIEC’s PCDH pilots, including the Heartland initiative, is using a standards-based approach to ensure that the PCDH is both cost-effective and scalable and ultimately benefits the patient. Successful implementation will demonstrate that the PCDH can enable HIEs nationwide to seamlessly deliver data across state lines, across health systems and across referral regions.
The technology “is not the hard part, by any means,” Kansky says. “It’s using available standards. The hard part is always getting humans and organizations to agree on what we’re going to do, getting through the legal contracts, and settling different rules in different states about permissions. Tech people are often waiting on the rest of us to get the details laid out.”
“Because of the tourism in East Tennessee, etHIN has medical data on patients from all 50 states and beyond who were treated by an etHIN participant while traveling here,” said Leigh Sterling, Executive Director of etHIN, Knoxville. “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.”
Kansky sees other use cases for information exchange. As an example, he notes that many residents of northwestern Indiana regularly commute to Chicago for work, and thus could be regularly treated by providers in both Indiana and Illinois. “HIE tends to respect state lines, and this is an effort to figure out how best to exchange that data.”
By connecting one HIE region to another, the expanse of interoperability starts to cover the nation, executives say.
“Each of our organizations is successfully exchanging healthcare data with providers in our own communities,” said Kelly Hahaj, CEO of South Bend, Ind.-based 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.”
ONC is funding the initiative for 12 months, expecting it to enable the secure exchange of patient health records.
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