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One New York Regional HIE Opposes Expansion of Another, Highlighting Issues with Competition Among HIEs

September 24, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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In a 2015 report, 84 percent of HIE leaders cited competition among HIEs as a barrier to development
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A New York regional health information exchange (HIE), HealthlinkNY, based in Binghamton, has publicly come out against another regional HIE’s plans to expand its services into HealthlinkNY’s market, saying it creates “confusion and uncertainty” in the marketplace.

Last week, Hixny, an HIE based in Albany that historically covered north and west of the Capital District, announced that it had added nine counties to its territory, specifically Chenango, Broome, Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Westchester and Rockland counties in southern New York. These nine counties are already covered by HealthlinkNY’s network, which covers a 13-county service area spanning the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and the Southern Tier of New York (the Southern Tier encompasses counties of New York west of the Catskill Mountains along the northern border of Pennsylvania).

With the expansion, Hixny now serves 28 counties and the HIE already has updated its website to state that it serves communities from Westchester to the Canadian border and Binghamton to Vermont. Hixny CEO Mark McKinney claims that this area, the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier region, has "historically lagged in connecting providers to one another and collecting patient consent.”

Staci Romeo, executive director of HealthlinkNY, notes that all 35 hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions are HealthlinkNY participants. In those nine counties, Hixny has 21 sites and no hospitals, according to Romeo.

Both HIEs are two among the state’s eight qualified entities (QE) connected by the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY) – a “network of networks” that allows the electronic exchange of clinical information and connects healthcare statewide – overseen by the New York State Department of Health and managed by the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC). According to the NYeC website, participating healthcare organizations can connect with the QE that best aligns with their business, operational, and service delivery needs. 

HealthlinkNY issued a strongly worded press release late last week in response to Hixny’s expansion plans. “The truth is that an unnecessary expansion into this service area compromises the effectiveness of the Health Information Exchange [HIE],” Romeo said in the press release. Romeo also stated, "While others seek to confuse the marketplace for their own professional gain, our focus is pure: to help providers improve the continuum of care."

During interviews Romeo and Hixny's McKinney both addressed the expansion plans. Romeo says Hixny’s expansion into its territory creates competition between the HIEs and says the competition is a “distraction, it’s confusing for participants and it’s completely unnecessary.”

McKinney says, “The primary reason for us to consider expansion is because patients and providers really are not bound by county borders. We have long been a trail blazer as an HIE both in the state and around the country. From our perspective, reaching into those regions helps to meet the needs of those patients.” McKinney says Hixny officials recognized that there was an overlap of patients seeing providers both in Hixny’s service area and in neighboring counties.

“We looked at data for patients already inside our master patient index, and we saw significant percentages of patients already had records inside our systems, so for those providers and those patients, getting a more accurate and complete record and making that system available to providers seemed like a valuable exercise to bring all that information to one place,” he says. “This gives providers a choice in terms of what they value with regard to the services that are provided.”

According to Hixny’s website, 1 in 5 residents of the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier already have Hixny records, and that figure increases to more than 1 in 2 in counties neighboring Hixny's established service area, the website states.

HealthlinkNY's service area

Hixny's service area

McKinney also notes that it is not uncommon for multiple HIEs to serve multiple markets and he believes its beneficial to have two HIEs serving the same counties. “I think what’s most important is to meet the needs of patients and providers. Ultimately, it’s about patients and providers and making sure they have access to the information that they need,” he says.

And in response to Romeo’s statement that Hixny’s expansion creates “confusion and uncertainty in the marketplace.” McKinney says, “I can’t comment on her response; what I can say it that we’re very committed to our expansion and delivering the data and the information that will improve care and lower costs for patients and providers in the region.”

Hixny (formerly known as the Health Information Xchange of New York) launched in 1999 as a collaboration between Iroquois Health Care Alliance, which represents upstate hospitals, and the New York Health Plan Association. The HIE currently serves 1.7 million patients.

Regional HIEs enable provider organizations to access and exchange health information with participants in their region, and, in New York State, all eight QEs connect to SHIN-NY, which acts as a hub to provide access to patients’ health information statewide. When contacted for comment, Valerie Grey, executive director of the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), stated, “Ultimately, our role is to help expand participation in the information network and support all of our partners in that process. We’re going to continue that work with each of our eight regional networks because increased participation will improve health outcomes across New York.”

Historically, HIEs separately increase their networks within their agreed-upon geographic areas, while there also is a great deal of collaboration between regional HIEs. However, one challenge for many HIE leaders is determining how to exchange information with competing organizations.

Healthcare researcher Julia Adler-Milstein, Ph.D., who has done extensive research on HIEs, says there are regions with multiple HIEs operating and competition among HIEs is a common issue, although it’s often discussed in “backroom” conversations. Adler-Milstein is an associate professor of medicine and director of the Clinical Informatics and Improvement Research Center, School of Medicine, at the University of California San Francisco.

Three years ago, Adler-Milstein was part of a team of researchers from the Mathematica Policy Research, the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Michigan, School of Information that published research examining health IT adoption, including the advancement of community HIEs. As part of that study, the researchers surveyed HIE leaders about barriers to development, and 84 percent of respondents cited competition among HIEs as a barrier to their development.

In Opposing Hinxy's Expanion, HealthlinkNY Claims "Sour Grapes"

HealthlinkNY officials also take issue with the wording of Hixny’s press release stating that information sharing "historically lags" in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier region, which is HealthlinkNY's territory.

McKinney says, "There has been public information that has demonstrated that the growth of SHIN-NY across the state has been uneven and so we’re basing [that] on some of that information that has demonstrated that certain areas have grown faster than others." He adds, “We think our press release stands for itself, in terms of demonstrating that there is a need for Hixny to deliver the data and the information that will improve care and lower costs for patients and providers in the region.”

In HealthlinkNY’s press release, Romeo said Hixny’s claims against HealthlinkNY’s impact and progress are "completely unfounded.”

HealthlinkNY, which launched in 2005, has all 35 hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Catskill region participating and sending data to their HIE, as well as 1,207 sites, according to Romeo. HealthlinkNY also recently hit the two million patient consent mark and has 374 participating provider organizations, up from 271 at the end of 2017, according to Romeo. HealthlinkNY also administers two Population Health Improvement Programs (PHIPs) in the Hudson Valley and Southern Tier. HealthlinkNY’s service area population is just shy of 2.9 million residents and includes nearly 1,800 participating locations.

Further, Romeo stated in the press release that Hixny’s claims “sound like a case of sour grapes after being passed over during our search for a strategic partner.” HealthlinkNY has entered into strategic partnership discussions with HealtheConnections, another HIE located in Syracuse that serves central New York, and Romeo stated, “HealthlinkNY had recently advised Hixny that they did not make the cut.”

When reached for comment on Romeo’s claim, McKinney responded, “Hixny’s strategy for expansion is solely based on getting providers data that is complete, accurate and up-to-date and supporting the success of the SHIN-NY by improving the overall health of our communities.” 

Romeo notes that HealthlinkNY has significant plans underway in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions to increase its presence and breadth of services offered. As part of this strategy, HealthlinkNY is looking to work with a strategic partner with “innovative services and an unwavering commitment to providing value,” she says. After interviewing potential partners, HealthlinkNY decided to collaborate with HealtheConnections.

Romeo said in the press release that HealthlinkNY entered discussions with HealtheConnections because “they are in alignment with us with respect to mission, best practices, services, capabilities, and culture.” She further stated, “They also will help power a more sophisticated technology platform as well as a complementary program for population health, critical with today’s burgeoning opioid crisis and the need for increased access to mental health services. We want to take this to the next level.”

Romeo further expanded on the partnership: “The combination of services currently provided by both QE's will be expanded by this partnership. Just a few examples are: additional functionality regarding actionable analytics, HEDIS reporting, as well as alerts provided how and when participants need them. We are looking forward to synergies and shared best practices between both organizations.”

 


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Hawaii’s HIE Leveraging Technology to Improve Patient Identification

November 8, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Hawaii Health Information Exchange (HHIE), Hawaii’s state-designated HIE, is taking action to improve patient identification and the accuracy of provider data for enhanced care coordination across the state.

HHIE is working with Pasadena, Calif.-based NextGate to implement an enterprise cloud-based master patient index and provider registry software to create a sustainable statewide system of accurate patient and provider data by resolving duplicate and incomplete records.

HHIE was established in 2006 to improve statewide healthcare delivery through seamless, safe and effective health information exchange. The HIE covers more than 1.2 million patients and has more than 450 participants including Castle Medical Center, Hawaii Pacific Health, The Queen's Medical Center, and the state’s largest insurance provider, HMSA.

“Accurate, comprehensive data that flows freely across boundaries is a catalyst for informed, life-saving decision making, effective care management, and a seamless patient and provider experience,” Francis Chan, CEO of HHIE, said in a statement.

Chan adds that the technology updates will help to ensure providers have “timely and reliable access to data to deliver the high-quality level of care every patient deserves.” “We are building a scalable, trusted information network that will positively influence the health and well-being of our communities,” Chan said.

“The partnership will enable HHIE to develop internal support tools to create accurate, efficient patient identity and provider relationships to those patients to support focused coordinated care,” Ben Tutor, information technology manager of HHIE, said in a statement.

Cross-system interoperability is critical to the success of HHIE’s Health eNet Community Health Record (CHR), which has more than 1,200 users and 470 participating physician practices, pharmacies, payers and large healthcare providers that contribute to over 20 million health records statewide. Deployment of the EMPI’s Patient Matching as a Service (PMaaS) solution will support HHIE’s vision of a fully integrated, coordinated delivery network by establishing positive patient identification at every point across the continuum for a complete picture of one’s health, according to HHIE leaders.

By ensuring that each individual has only one record, participants of HHIE will be able to map a patient’s entire care journey for informed decision-making and population health management, HHIE leader say.

The provider registry will synchronize and reconcile provider data across clinical, financial and credentialing systems to enable an accurate directory and referral network of providers. Using a single provider ID, the registry aggregates and maintains up-to-date information about individual providers and provider groups, such as specialties, locations, insurance options, hospital privileges, spoken languages, and practice hours. Providers can also easily identify who else is on their patient’s care team as well as what other clinicians should receive test results, lab reports and other treatment summaries.


 

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HIE 2.0: CORHIO’s Leaders Map a Pathway to Advanced Data-Sharing Success in Colorado

November 7, 2018
by Mark Hagland, Editor-in-Chief
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CORHIO’s leaders have been involved in intensive work to improve data quality, while expanding data-sharing more broadly

The leader of CORHIO, one of the most progressive health information exchange (HIE) organizations in the country, continue to innovate forward across a broad range of areas. The Denver-based CORHIO already connects 65 hospitals across Colorado—virtually all of the inpatient community and academic facilities in the state—and connects around 5,000 physicians statewide as well.

As the organization’s website notes, “CORHIO empowers people, providers and communities by providing the information they need to improve health. Our advanced health information exchange (HIE) technology, data analytics tools and expert consulting help healthcare providers access information that saves lives, streamlines care coordination, reduces costs, and improves clinical outcomes for millions of people.”

Recently, CORHIO’s leaders, including Morgan Honea, the HIE’s president and CEO, and Mark Carlson, its director of product management, have been pushing ahead to connect providers across the state both more broadly and more deeply—extending out into the behavioral health sphere as well as facilitating the sharing of more granular data across Colorado, through data normalization work. Honea and Carlson spoke recently with Healthcare Informatics Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding their current initiatives. Below are excerpts from that interview.

You’ve been expanding some of your core data-sharing capabilities of late, correct?

Mark Carlson: Yes; we certainly do have some activity and infrastructure that we’ve been building out. I’ll focus in on clinical and population health first. One area we had identified a couple of years ago in terms of being able to generate information for population health, at the state level, or in partnership with ACOs, came about as the state pushed forward an initiative called “regional care collaboratives” with ACOs. As part of that initiative, we did work on packaging and bundling notifications around ED visits and hospitalizations and discharges, for providers, as well as helping smaller physician practices in that area. And we’ve been looking at expanding out that concept around clinical indicators, initially focusing on labs.

We have 65 hospitals sending data into CORHIO, and we had 30-plus representations as to how a hemoglobin a1c might be represented, in terms of vocabulary and coding. So we used NLP [natural language processing] to help us with that, to help move forward in disease management in areas like diabetes. We’ve also focused on another use case with our Department of Health in Colorado, around an influenza use case, where we’re able to flag a positive influenza use test and track for an inpatient admit that occurs within 48 hours, to map the cost of care as well as the ability to access supporting resources that hopefully would avert an inpatient admission.

That’s what we’re working on—normalization across general labs and clinical metrics; and as we expand our data types, we’re expanding towards social determinants, as well as labs that extend beyond the general labs.

Morgan Honea: I agree with everything that Mark said. I would just add that this is, really, in my opinion, kind of a second evolution around the interoperability question. We’ve got a tremendous HIE with tremendous participation here in Colorado. The important fact is that, after laying the infrastructure for a statewide HIE, it next becomes imperative move into normalization across data sources, so that you’re not changing vocabularies or nomenclature.

That sounds like “HIE 2.0,” in terms of the advanced work, doesn’t it?

Carlson: That’ll work.

What’s next or top priority now for providers?

Honea: Our top priority is to continue to expand the type of data available in the HIE. In that context, we’re facing up to the incredible challenge of continuing to integrate behavioral data into the system. We’re also working with state agencies, to make sure that folks are getting the best care coordination for the best outcomes possible. And probably the highest demand from our clients is fewer queries and more push notifications and types of functionality, greater integration into EHRs [electronic health records] and other population health-type tools, with really clean, neatly packaged data, which is where this conversation becomes more important, because as Mark said, with hemoglobin a1c, things get very messy as the volume of the data grows, if you’re constantly having to clean up the data. So providing the data in interoperable, easily usable ways, is a top priority.

Carlson: And you have to follow the money in terms of reimbursable events and other value-based areas. So as we improve our inbound CCDA-type activities, we want to improve the quality of submission at the level of formatting as well as presence of charted measures, as being able to format and report those out, from practices, including around broader performance measures.

With regard to the capture and sharing of data, are you making any use of artificial intelligence? And where is that going?

Carlson: One of our core initiatives is, how do we become more situationally aware? I’ve looked at FHIR as a path forward, in that context Whereas the CCDA is a blunt-force instrument, FHIR provides the opportunity to be a lot more precise in packaging and bundling data. For example, we’ve been working on a use case for an anesthesiology group. They want to see problems, meds, last treatments, discharge summary, they don’t want to see everything. FHIR helps us to bundle and package data, and then via an API connection, they can receive more precise information that meets their needs, rather than via all-encompassing data. More targeted, based on clinical needs.

Honea: The ability to get down the discrete data level, understand the data points and bundle and share them, is where I think things are going. A CCDA is a big, narrative summary of an encounter, and doesn’t get down to that level of granularity.

Carlson: In the media right now, there’s been a lot of discussion around where the next steps of IBM Watson should be. And we’ve had this discussion with a lot of vendors in the past, where we’ve been introduced to some very compelling functionality; but then some wonderfully designed tools absolutely choke on some of the variability of the nomenclature in the data. And that prevents us from getting to advancing the Quadruple Aim. Those learnings and market information that we’ve gathered over time, indicated our absolute need to partner with organizations that have a foundation for creating mappings that are clinically valid and reliable and backed with the expertise behind it. That can help us get to the population health insights that you’re referencing when you mention AI.

Do you think you’ll be able to incorporate some social determinants of health data into what you’re sharing?

Honea: That’s an area where I’m spending some of my time now. I have no doubt that we’ll run into the same challenges with local code sets and varying terminologies with that type of data that we’ve had with clinical data. I don’t see that that process is strictly limited to hospital and clinic data; I think it will go across all sorts of systems; and when we share from one program to another and one type of data system to another, we’ll face the same types of challenges and requirements for data standardization. So we’ll probably rinse and repeat every time we go out and get another data point.

Carlson: We are working with United Way 211, understanding how their community resources and curated content and partnerships are working, and getting insights from diabetic prevention programs and food banks—the data quality is as variable as some of the source organizations involved. I think this opens up a whole new opportunity for whole-person care, but it will pose some of the types of data normalization and use challenges as clinical data.

How do you see the next few years evolving forward at CORHIO?

Carlson: We’ve touched on a lot of priorities—ECQM work… our learnings in various areas. It’s a big lift to ingest the CCDA documents and get consistency at the data level. Our partner organizations continue to work with us and with Wolters Kluwer, to work on various types of data together. When we spoke at the HIMSS Conference earlier this year, Morgan and I talked a lot about data normalization work and about data visualization, and about being able to visualize risk across counties and the state, to identify pockets of need. And in that context, the social determinants data will help us understand where the food deserts are, and where high levels of chronic diabetics live. We have a number of mountain and rural communities that are fairly isolated, so our opportunities to impact that, are large, but so are the needs, and thus, we need to address data quality issues.

Honea: I agree with everything that Mark said. We’ve got this never-ending effort to include programmatic elements, site-specific elements, into the HIE, every kind of element—that work will never end. But I’m also continually focused on the question of how we as a state, with only 5 million people, can identify ways to leverage the infrastructure built with significant investment at the federal, state, and local levels, to advance our overall HIE efforts as a state, and minimize the risk of continually building new silos of data that will just require new efforts in the same fashion? How do we improve coordination when folks are moving across different geographies or service areas, without rebuilding existing infrastructure? How do we partner with communities to get the biggest bang for our buck? That requires a lot of planning and coordination and collaboration.

Carlson: For HIEs to provide value, Morgan and I often say, it’s data versus documents. Document exchange has a very valuable place in the broader landscape, but where the HIEs are differentiating themselves is at local-level attention and relationships and meeting community needs, and where we can operate at the data level to provide the insights to drive patient care quality forward.

 

 

 


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Seven HIEs Now Connected to Military Health System

November 1, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Seven physician-led health information exchanges (HIEs) are now connected to the Military Health System (MHS), enabling MHS providers to have access to patients’ electronic health records to support clinical decision making at the point of care.

The Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN), the eHealth Exchange, and KAMMCO, a provider of insurance and health care technology services for physicians and other health care professionals, assisted in facilitating the connection.

With this new development, medical records can be shared across the world as military personnel and their families transition between multiple locations, stateside or overseas. Military hospitals and clinics now can quickly and securely access patients' personal health information 24/7 and have access from the physician-led HIEs in Kansas, Connecticut, New Jersey, South Carolina, Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana.

“This represents the growing capabilities of HIEs to share records in all locations from which a patient has received care,” Laura McCrary, executive director of KHIN, said in a statement.

“MHS cares for 9.4 million beneficiaries, delivering care globally in military hospitals and clinics and providing coordinated, integrated care through civilian networks," Kimberly Heermann-Do, Health Information Exchange Office Lead in the EHR Modernization Program Management Office, said. Heermann-Do added, “Through HIEs, records are available securely from the private sector if the HIE is onboarded to the MHS. Having access to records for patients across the KAMMCO network will assist MHS providers with clinical decisions.”

“The Medical Society of New Jersey (MSNJ) has a long history of supporting the healthcare needs of our active duty military in New Jersey. Sharing clinical information from our physician practices with MHS through OneHealth New Jersey furthers our support in this important area,” Larry Downs, MSNJ CEO, said in a statement. “With a large joint base located in New Jersey our physician members provide care to many active duty military and their families.” MSNJ is one of seven medical societies who partner with KAMMCO in the delivery of a physician-led health information exchange platform.

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