Two HIEs tap their inner verbs

By Bernie Monegain
10:43 AM

Connect, link, exchange, share, go – a few verbs that lead to more verbs, such as care, decide, treat, recover, prevent. It must have been what health IT chief Farzad Mostashari, MD, had in mind when he told a packed auditorium of health IT pros at the annual HIMSS conference last February that he thinks of HIE as a verb.

Here at Healthcare IT News, the concept of health information exchange as a verb resonated. We know that verbs are the action words. The right verb can infuse a sentence or headline with oomph. A noun or gerund just does not wield the same power. A gerund, especially seems the weak form of a verb, or a maybe a noun.

Not quite itself.

Mostashari’s statement helped us to look at HIEs in a new way – more as something that moves, goes, runs and leaps.

Indeed, HIEs all over the country are behaving as verbs. This month SHIN-NY – New York’s statewide network, and HealthInfoNet, Maine’s HIE – jumped to new levels. [See P. 28].

In New York, three regional HIEs in Brooklyn, Long Island and the Hudson Valley linked to the statewide network – SHIN-NY. In Maine, HealthInfoNet launched an image-sharing initiative that will put images at providers’ fingertips.

"This new service will save time for our providers and their patients. With instant access to a patient’s images, medical staff can treat them much faster and the patient won’t have to take the time to pick up and deliver CDs,” say Barry Blumenfeld, CIO of Maine Health.

There are other anticipated pluses: fewer repeat tests, meaning less cost and less radiation exposure for patients.

David Whitlinger, executive director of New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC) sings the praises of New York’s recent move to link ever wider.

"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,” he said.

The value of health information exchanges is just now starting to be better understood by both provider organizations and patients, says Todd Rogow, IT director for Maine’s HealthInfoNet. [Q&A with Rogow, Page 38].

Rogow suggests listening to patients and healthcare providers, the better to focus on the services they need, the better to grow a healthy exchange that translates into high quality care.

“Don’t be afraid to take risks, but also learn as much as you can from others about the services and technology approaches that provide the most value,” Rogow says. On-point advice.

The New York and Maine HIEs – and many others – are putting verbs and verve into health information exchange. Many in the industry see them as models for the rest of the country.

That does not mean that every exchange will behave exactly the same as they head toward nationwide exchange, as Rogow notes.

Mostashari, too, envisions many different models as the nation builds its network.

“It’s going to be a little messy but very liquid and fluid, where there will be lots of different means for information to go where it needs to go. The vision we have is around standards, around directories, and a whole host of different ways that information can be shared and understood,” Mostashari said earlier this year at a meeting the Health IT Policy Committee, which advises the federal government.

As healthcare IT professionals work toward getting data exchange just right, it may be comforting to remember something else Mostashari said while discussing parts of speech in his HIMSS keynote: "Change takes time, innovation and sustained will.”

Apparently, nouns make a difference, too.