Power in numbers

By Mike Miliard
11:49 AM
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New York RHIOs and HIEs team up

Three regional health information organizations (RHIOs) and three health information exchange (HIE) vendors will participate in the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY), which officials say will function much like a public utility.

The RHIOs – Brooklyn Health Information Exchange, e-Health Network of Long Island and THINC – and HIE vendors (HealthUnity, IBM and InterSystems) have signed on with the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC) to facilitate information exchange across New York's downstate region, which comprises New York City's five boroughs, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, with a combined population of 13 million.

The collaboration, announced June 6 by NYeC and the New York State Department of Health, represents a significant step, officials say.

It formalizes the creation of a single statewide network for healthcare records. The SHIN-NY is coordinated by NYeC and will unify existing state HIE initiatives – such as within hospital systems and local RHIOs – making electronic health records secure and accessible to healthcare providers statewide.

"A health information network is relevant to all of us," said David Whitlinger, executive director of NYeC. "If we ever need to visit the ER, anytime we get an MRI or have lab work done and need to make sure our primary care doctor gets the results – our records must reach whoever is treating us as quickly as possible."

Brooklyn Health Information Exchange, e-Health Network of Long Island and THINC, each pioneers of HIE in their regions, have joined the SHIN-NY, connecting their databases and infrastructure to improve the care of the patients they serve and promote statewide health.

"THINC has been running an HIE since 2001, and we know HIEs enhance coordination and continuity of care, improving quality and helping control costs," said Susan Stuard, executive director of THINC. "NYeC should be commended, not only for coordinating this effort, but also for recognizing that we're not dealing with technology for its own sake. This is about supporting patient care."

HealthUnity, IBM, and InterSystems have also entered into strategic contracts with NYeC to bring their technologies to bear on the further development of the SHIN-NY and have agreed to standardization of software to permit safe and efficient interoperability, along with adherence to New York Statewide Policy Guidance.

Paul Grabscheid vice president of strategic planning at InterSystems, said his firm is "totally committed to taking connected care to the higher, more inclusive level that is essential to support optimal care delivery throughout the State of New York." To reach this goal, he added, "we need to move beyond low-level data exchange and implement strategic platforms with the intelligent aggregation and advanced analytics needed to improve individual and population health."

The secure communication enabled by the SHIN-NY will reduce time and resources currently wasted gathering disparate medical histories from multiple providers, officials say, benefitting patients with chronic conditions, who visit a variety of providers and treatment facilities, and are in need of more effectively coordinated care. It will also reduce the number of duplicate tests ordered.

The network will serve to prevent harmful drug interactions and highlight risks, allowing providers in emergency situations access to life-saving information, such as a patient's allergy and medication history.

Doctors who spend less time trying to retrieve data will have more time to discuss treatment options and recovery plans with their patients. As additional RHIOs connect to the SHIN-NY, the network will have greater reach, incorporating more secure clinical information from across the state.

The initial capability of the SHIN-NY will be that of Patient Record Look Up, a function similar to a highly secure search engine, which allows providers to search across databases within the SHIN-NY network to find health records relevant to their patient.

The next function the SHIN-NY will deploy is Direct Exchange, which works like email, where providers can query each other while collaborating on patient care.

"Many of the downstate region's 13 million people commute daily across regional boundaries," said Whitlinger. "They also seek healthcare across those boundaries, so it's a logical place for the SHIN-NY to focus first."

"We always knew what we built would need to be flexible and able to scale, so BHIX (Brooklyn Health Information Exchange) created a robust infrastructure that the SHIN-NY can now use as the backbone for large-scale applications such as the state's Medicaid redesign efforts," said BHIX Executive Director Irene Koch. "It just makes sense for everyone to come together now to create efficiencies and expand connectivity."

"e-Health Network of Long Island is extremely excited about the collaborative approach to patients' care," said Denise Reilly, executive director of e-Health Network of Long Island. "We serve five hospitals and 13 nursing homes, and this moves our patient care to a new level."

"The work of NYeC is a model for the rest of the nation," said Paul Grundy, MD, director of healthcare transformation at IBM. "With a master view of the patient and provider allowing the linking of records, care can be more effectively coordinated."