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Q&A: Moving Data Across Multiple Borders

January 24, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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This week, the Missouri Health Connection announced alongside the Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NeHII) and Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) that the three states had successfully exchanged Direct messages across state lines. According to Missouri Health Connection (MHC), which had also recently connected with Illinois Health Information Exchange (ILHIE), it was the first time an exchange of this magnitude happened.

Healthcare Informatics Associate Editor Gabriel Perna caught up with MHC’s chief operating officer, Mindy Mazur, about this exchange. Below are excerpts from their interview.

Mindy Mazur

How did this come about?

It was as simple as our president and CEO Mary Kasal reached out to the teams in Kansas and Nebraska, and we decided to work together to make it happen. In terms of the process, MHC, KHIN, and NeHII sent secure test message via Direct secure messaging to one another, then they each verified receipt and we completed a circle of connectivity that way. We did the same thing with Illinois a couple of weeks ago.

You make it sound so easy!

Well, the easy part was the cooperation among the states I think. That was a unique thing, just getting the organizations to work together. But essentially, our Direct secure messaging platform has a feature that allows for different providers on different HISPS (health information service providers) to talk to each other, so we utilized that provision in our system. I’m not sure if every system has that feature, but we do.

What was the vendor?

It’s InterSystems (Cambridge, Mass.), but they sub-contract with Impriva. I should mention though our vision on this is to have the different health organizations and ultimately our customers be the ones in control, and not the vendor. We want to be vendor agnostic in terms of connecting.

Explain why these particular three states exchanging direct messages is important?

In Missouri we have more border states than any other state in the nation; we have eight different border states. A project like this is so important, particularly for those patients who go across state lines to receive care. In Kansas City, a lots of folks see providers in both Missouri and Kansas,  and they literally cross the street. Allowing for interstate connectivity ultimately helps enable more coordinate patient care. That’s what we’re all about. Our mission is about improving care through the use of health information technology.

Where do you hope to go from here? More states?

We want to connect with all of Missouri’s border states, and also with the various regional health information organizations (RHIOs). We’ll continue to work to make this type of interoperability entirely vendor agnostic so it doesn’t matter what the RHIO has. And that ultimately is just going to continue to help us enable more coordination of care.