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NeHC: Moving Ahead on HIE, Patient Engagement Initiatives

March 7, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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The National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC), the Washington, D.C.-based public-private health IT advocate organization, is moving ahead in both health information exchange (HIE) and patient engagement initiatives. In a conversation with HCI’s Associate Editor Gabriel Perna, NeHC CEO Kate Berry, talked about the upcoming work the organization is set to do in a pair of critical areas within the healthcare landscape.

Berry says NeHC in the past year formed workgroups to get a better understanding of the toughest challenges within HIE. These challenges, she says, include sustainability, interoperability, prioritizing and phasing of HIE services, and HIE functions to support new payment models. The next step is to disseminate and build on that work.

There’s also been challenges with HIE governance, which kind of is an amalgamation of the other issues mentioned above. Berry says NeHC is trying to pull together some of the leading figures in HIE, those who have had success, like Laura McCrary from Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) and Dev Culver of HealthInfoNet, the organizations that have formed the statewide HIEs of Kansas and Mainer respectively. It’s all about the establishment of trust.

“Governance is about trust,” Berry says. “It’s about the patients having enough of an understanding that they trust that it’s a good thing their data is flowing. It’s about the providers trusting that this is a good thing too.  The thing that’s going to help us create progress is to bring those leaders together, and try to capture what they’ve done that’s consistent across them. It’s about capturing those commonalities and disseminating where others can take that knowledge and invent their own wheel.”

On the patient engagement side, NeHC is continuing its work with the patient engagement framework and the consumer eHealth readiness tool, which were announced in November of last year. Berry says NeHC has gotten great feedback on the framework and the readiness tool from both private and public organizations.

Berry says NeHC is set to announce a partnership with one state which is going to buy a bunch of licenses for the readiness tool and give it out to various provider organizations within the state. In addition, the state will come a promotion partner with NeHC to encourage adoption of the readiness tool. Also, on the private side, NeHC is working with a couple of organizations to provide the tool in resell.

“We think because of our unique status, as a public-private partnership, we’re not a commercial company, and with the framework and the tool, and because it’s so multi-stakeholder driven, we think it could be become the de-facto industry standard defining and measuring patient engagement. We really think it could take off because everyone is telling us they haven’t seen anything like it,” Berry says.

Berry says the timing couldn’t be better due to the regulations from Stage 2, and likely Stage 3, of the Meaningful Use initiative under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. She says many of the provider organizations are struggling with the various patient-engagement requirements from those initiatives.

On the government front, Berry says NeHC is working with Office for the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) to come up with a policy framework on patient-generated health data. All of these changes are part of the larger transformation in healthcare, she says, and the role that an empowered patient will play in that.

“The transition from the pay-for-volume payment model in healthcare to the pay-for-value model is really driving the need to empower patients. The biggest drive of cost in healthcare is individual behavior. So if the provider is going to be at risk for outcomes, it’s going to everyone’s best interest to engage the patients,” Berry says.