Getting from A to B

By Bernie Monegain
02:18 PM

NeHC delivers roadmap to connected nation

WASHINGTON – As National eHealth Collaborative CEO Kate Berry sees it, patient care will improve with the secure, easy and sustainable exchange of medical records between healthcare providers. To that end, NeHC, a public-private partnership focused on accelerating progress toward widespread, secure and interoperable nationwide health information exchange, last month released a roadmap for establishing and operating successful health information exchanges. The map addresses building, operating and sustaining the HIEs.

The “Health Information Exchange Roadmap: The Landscape and a Path Forward,” offers stakeholders a picture of efforts being undertaken by both the public and private sectors to create and implement the building blocks for widespread deployment of interoperable HIE, NeHC executives say. It also provides an understanding of how these diverse approaches fit together into a cohesive strategy for nationwide HIE and suggests a four-phase approach to help HIE initiatives make progress and become sustainable.

“In this time of unprecedented investment, growth and innovation, achieving widespread HIE is a worthy goal because of its many benefits to patient care,” said Berry. “A great deal of progress is being made today yet ongoing challenges remain. We hope this HIE Roadmap helps to clarify options, motivate action and accelerate success for those stakeholders who believe that HIE is a necessary foundation for healthcare transformation.” (NewsMaker interview with Berry, page 38)

The roadmap covers three topics in detail:

1. ONC-led efforts to develop nationally recognized standards that can be leveraged by local HIE initiatives and how those standards work in harmony with local efforts to create a cohesive strategy for market-driven interoperability;

2. Examples of where national standards are currently being leveraged by diverse market based initiatives to provide innovative HIE functionality and services; and

3. A roadmap of the major steps communities can follow to accelerate progress toward the realization of a widespread and successful deployment of interoperable EHRs, connected health IT tools and real time information sharing through HIE.

“ONC has been a significant catalyst in propelling the nation toward the goal of standardized technical interoperability between electronic health records and information sharing through health information exchange,” said Kevin Hutchinson, a member of the HIT Standards Committee and chair of the NeHC Board of Directors (pictured at left). “As a member of the HIT Standards Committee, I can attest first-hand to the incredible difference ONC has made to encourage and enable widespread HIE by bringing the community directly into the standards development process.”

“Making progress to increase the specificity of standards is important to growing interoperable health information exchange," said Doug Fridsma, MD, director of the Office of Standards and Interoperability at ONC. "ONC is committed to helping the nation improve health and healthcare through the use of IT and information exchange. One of the ways we can do that is by developing and harmonizing a portfolio of standards, services and policies that will enable the secure exchange of health information over the Internet.”

Fridsma added that successes have been made possible because of dedicated volunteers who share their expertise and countless hours of their time to participate in the Standards & Interoperability Framework initiatives, so that the building blocks are in place for interoperable HIE to become a standard of care.

The HIE Roadmap includes multiple examples of leading HIE-enabling organizations that are leveraging nationally-recognized HIE standards to improve patient care, achieve efficiencies and realize cost savings.

“The availability of national standards is a critical foundation for HIE,” said Keith Hepp, interim CEO, HealthBridge. “With this in place, HealthBridge is able to focus on connecting our customers to better information that brings value, improves patient care and positions them for success in a changing environment.”

The third section of the HIE Roadmap suggests a four-phase process for making progress toward full HIE: HIE objectives and vision, market assessment, strategy development and strategy implementation.

These phases and the steps within them are intended to help all healthcare organizations seeking to use HIE to improve patient care, regardless of where they may be on the continuum that leads to full interoperability and widespread HIE.

“This roadmap synthesizes a great deal of valuable information that may be helpful for many types of organizations either directly involved with HIE or enabling HIE,” said Michael Matthews, CEO, MedVirginia.

“As a public-private partnership with multi-stakeholder engagement, NeHC is well positioned to convene stakeholders to tackle ongoing HIE challenges and encourage consensus on best practices that can be widely disseminated.”

NeHC consulted with many stakeholders to validate its belief that there was a need for this type of document designed to help stakeholders understand the current landscape and to chart a path forward for those actively working to advance HIE. More than 60 experts and HIE thought leaders directly provided advice and input into the final HIE Roadmap. A common theme heard through the expert feedback was that challenges remain and there is a need for a collaborative process to tackle remaining challenges.

The release of the HIE roadmap kicks off the launch of NeHC’s new HIE Learning Network. The network will include a series of workgroups to build consensus on best practices that can bring value by addressing some of the ongoing HIE challenges. NeHC will begin this process by seeking feedback from all interested stakeholders on the most important issues to tackle.

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Topics for HIE Learning Network workgroups may include:
• Business models for financial sustainability
• Measures of success
• Best practices for prioritizing and phasing implementation of HIE services
• Stakeholder engagement and governance best practices
• Best practices for evaluating and selecting technology solutions
• Addressing variations in implementation of interoperability standards
• Strategies and value propositions for consumer engagement
• Patient consent models and best practices
• Best practices for patient matching
• Secondary uses of data opportunities and best practices
• Payer and employer engagement in HIE
• Role and function of HIE in support of accountable care

Download the roadmap:

Learn about the HIE Leaning Network: