Slideshow 5 keys to exchanging patient information

  • June 20 2016, 6:48am EDT

The 5 keys to exchanging patient information

Changing organizational culture is one of the critical moves providers need to take to successfully share information.

Data sharing opportunities abound

As healthcare organizations get involved in population health initiatives and build relationships with providers in the community, they’ll face opportunities—and pressure—to share patient information. A strategy for doing so is important, and MedStar Health vice president Mark Schneider discussed how his organization came to its plan to share information outside hospital walls. Schneider made his observations in a recent blog for Hayes Management Consulting.

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New friends

MedStar initially saw CVS Minute Clinics coming into the region as competitors, but now the delivery system and the clinics have linked their EHRs. MedStar also is linking to patients, home health clinicians, rehab facilities, urgent care centers and other delivery systems previously viewed as competition in the Baltimore-Washington region. “The discussion is no longer ‘my data versus your data,’ but more how well can we collaboratively use the data that we collectively share,” Schneider says. “It’s a new way of thinking, and the technology is the piece that ties it all together.”

Patient benefits

Patients now expect immediate access to physicians, schedules and health information, Schneider says. Connectivity tools enable MedStar to deliver the information in a productive and cost-effective manner. “It’s not about driving patients to office or hospital visits when there are now so many other appropriate venues for efficient and timely healthcare delivery,” he adds.

Clinician benefits

Clinicians no longer have to struggle to find information because MedStar’s strategy enables them to find out what happened in any hospital, ambulatory or rehabilitation site, Minute Clinics or telehealth visits. “Armed with comprehensive and current data, providers can make better informed clinical decisions,” Schneider contends.

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Organizational benefits

If patients are enabled to select the proper care venue, MedStar benefits because its patients are healthier. “Engaging the appropriate provider makes healthcare less expensive for both the patient and the organization,” Schneider says. “Reducing the costs of duplicative tests and exams that result from piecemeal information is a win for everyone.”

The MedStar exec identifies five critical components in exchanging patient data:

Develop the right culture for connectivity

A provider organization needs to create a supportive mindset and culture, Schneider says.” We now describe our organization as a distributed care delivery network, which is very different from the traditional view of most hospitals.” Investments can be significant in terms of money and staff resources, so you need an organization fully committed to make the change.

Develop your strategy

There is no silver bullet. “Your best approach is to focus on a portfolio of strategies that are appropriate for your organization,” Schneider advises. “One option is to use health information exchanges to connect disparate EHRs. We use an in-house HIE to connect some of our remaining niche EHRs and connect with our regional HIE to connect with other hospitals and providers in the mid-Atlantic region. Other strategies include common clinical repositories, traditional interfaces or participation in national interoperability projects such as CommonWell.”

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Start small

Your budget may not support significant technology investments, but there are less expensive ways to start your connectivity program. “There are likely many common groups in your regional you can approach that provide a lower investment commitment,” Schneider explains. “You can reach out to exiting HIEs and adopt some of the common interoperability standards, which is less financially onerous than building an HIE from scratch or maintaining a significant network of interfaces.”

Avoid common pitfalls

Determine high-value partners so you don’t connect with too many entities and have multiple projects that are spread too thin. Make sure your executive team supports the chosen partners so you can get the required funding, according to Schneider. “You can maintain a balanced strategy by selecting a portfolio of two high-risk, three moderate-risk and two low-risk connections.” To fight internal resistance, stress that competition now means managing pooled data better than other organizations.

Emphasize the importance of security

Perform due diligence and understand how an organization manages and protects data before engaging, and include your legal and compliance departments early in the process. Potential partners don’t have to have the safeguards you do but they need to be equivalent and can prove effectiveness. “You should know what kind of penetration testing they do, how they audit and how they educate their staff on handling data so it is not susceptible to breaches,” Schneider warns. “You can’t just make a passive assumption that your data is well protected.”