Things are changing fast for the statewide health information exchange in Alaska, with a name change, new technology architecture and additional interoperability offerings in the works.
Formerly the Alaska eHealth Network, the organization has rebranded as healtheConnect Alaska. Laura Young, who became interim executive director in 2017, was named permanent executive director in April 2018. Young, who was previously executive director of the Behavioral Health Network of Arizona (BHINAZ), serves as a vice chair of the HIMSS Interoperability & Health Information Exchange Committee, as well as the eHealth Initiative’s Connecting Communities Workgroup.
“We are really doing a re-start of the organization,” Young said. “We thought a rebrand would be important to signify that we are kind of new and improved,” she added. “HIE is a tough business. If you don’t deliver value, you lose the trust of the participants. We wanted to send a message that this is a new effort. Our staff is pretty much all new. We are restructuring how the board works and we are changing the technology.”
HealtheConnect Alaska is stepping away from its technology relationship with Orion Health, a New Zealand-based vendor that has experienced recent financial trouble and layoffs. The Alaska HIE is cobbling together several solutions into its own platform. HealtheConnect announced it would use an enterprise master patient index from NextGate for patient identity management and a Mirth interface engine. It is turning to Audacious Inquiry for other tools, including a unified landing page for providers. “The other big thing is that we are shifting from a centralized to a federated model,” Young explained. “We felt that was a way we could shift from what we have with Orion quickly.” She added that some organizations, especially tribal ones, have been reluctant to contribute their data to a central repository.
“The beauty of it is by having ownership of the NextGate piece and the interface piece, we can pivot to any solution in the future if we need to,” Young explained. “If we feel like we need to have a centralized repository again, which will probably need to happen for consent as we move into things like behavioral health, we will be able to add that in without having to migrate a whole system.” She added that they like the added flexibility. “We need to be nimble and do some new things with new tools. It also positions us to be the identity manager for state-level projects, where they could use that MPI at a centralized location but not owned by the state.”
The healtheConnect team is working on several new features:
• The State of Alaska is making some changes to its regulations to allow HIE access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Young mentioned that her organization would also like to link to PDMPs in Oregon and Washington as well. “We will be augmenting it with medication fill history data from a DrFirst solution. That will give us a rich set of medication history data.”
• The HIE is working on a radiology image exchange with a company called Ambra.
• It is working on an implementation and group purchase offering of TigerConnect, a secure texting service that is like Direct secure messaging for smartphones.
Finally, Young and her team are working on an HIE sustainability plan and an outreach plan describing how they are going to reach participants. She said she is excited about all the change taking place and decided to take the permanent position there to see through the changes she has started putting in place.