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NeHII’s Deb Bass: HIE Is Changing to Meet Changing Needs

October 6, 2016
by Mark Hagland
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NeHII's Deb Bass sees a bright future for HIEs—as long as their leaders find ways to provide truly needed services

Deborah (Deb) Bass, the CEO, and an active board member, of the Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NeHII), continues to be as bullish on the future of health information exchanges (HIEs) as ever. Last month, Bass participated in the annual meeting of the Strategic Health Information Exchange (SHIEC), a national collaborative of more than 40 HIEs, and which was held in Scottsdale, Arizona, Sep. 18-21. More than 250 HIE leaders from around the country attended this year, up from about 100 in 2015. Among other speakers who addressed the gathering were senior officials from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Meanwhile, NeHII has been making advances in a number of areas in its seven-year history. Among other things, NeHII was designated in 2011 as a State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (SPDMP), which means that the HIE is providing critical information to clinicians and public health leaders that is needed in the growing nationwide effort to stem the explosion in opioid abuse.

As summarized in a June 1 article in Health IT Interoperability published on SHIEC’s home page, “Three members of the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) have come together to form a patient-centered data home (PCDH) initiative, which could better facilitate interstate health information exchange (HIE), the group recently announced. The PCDH initiative works by sending out episode alerts to participants of the program. These episode alerts notify providers that a patient has sought medical care outside of their regional, or “home,” HIE, and will direct providers on where to send patient data. This HIE will be query-based, allowing providers real-time access to the health data. This initiative,” the article, by Sara Heath, noted, “will reportedly help participating providers deliver better patient-centered care by allowing them to consult actual patient data to inform their decisions. The HIEs involved in PCDH are Arizona Health-e Connection (AzHeC), Quality Health Network (QHN), and Utah-based UHIN. According to AzHeC leaders, PCDH will help promote the ‘no wrong door’ policy, which states that health data should be available regardless of where a patient seeks care.”

That article further quoted Dick Thompson, executive director and CEO of QHN, as stating that “The concept is focused on providers having access to real-time data wherever a patient may present for care by providing information across state lines and disparate health care systems.” What’s more, Thompson added, “HIEs share common borders and common patients, and we are able to share information on these patients when they are away from their home zip code, bridging gaps in information and enabling more comprehensive patient records.”

Recently, Deb Bass spoke with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about some of the current issues and opportunities facing the HIE sector in U.S. healthcare, and about her perspectives on things happening at NeHII and nationwide. Below are excerpts from that interview.

What were some of the big-picture issues that you and your fellow HIE leaders discussed and addressed at the SHIEC annual conference last month?

I would say, first of all, we’re looking at answering this need for a nationwide health information exchange solution, because of challenges with interoperability. We believe that HIE is the answer to interoperability. So most of our topics centered around following patients wherever they go. So we discussed this concept of the patient-centered data home. What we do is that we share our zip code data between and among these HIEs inside this trust relationship. Did you see the release yesterday from HHS about the grants? The Heartland Grant they announced was one of those. Meanwhile, NeHII was able to send four people to the conference, and we’ve been discussing since then what was addressed at the conference, of course. And one of the big developments has been the awarding of grants for multi-state HIE development—the PCDH program.

And it appears that someone has trademarked the term “patient-centered data home”?

Yes, SHIEC has. And we’ve had a tremendous response to the concept. The PCDH is now live between Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. There are three different pilots. One is Oklahoma and Arkansas; Dick Thompson is the CO/AZ/UT; and Keith Kelley’s is Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.

What are these projects doing, basically?

We’re using our zip codes and ADT messages to alert our neighboring HIEs that we have a patient in your HIE, and we need that patient care summary, that CCDA.

What is your vision of the patient-centered data home?

With the SHIEC organization, we have 46 member HIEs, and we’re beginning to build a national network based on zip codes, and we have very good coverage in a number of areas of the country. So you’ve got the home HIE and the visiting HIE. And when we use our admission/discharge/transfer messages—when a patient is cared for by a patient care organization…

So, for example, a patient from Nebraska might be traveling in Colorado and need care, and the PCDH will facilitate critical communications about that patient’s status and accessing of services?