HIE as platform for innovation

By Tom Sullivan
01:31 PM

New York collaborative issues invitation to play in the sandbox

NEW YORK  -  Health information exchange can be a platform on which innovators build the tools that providers, public health departments and patients need   -  and, in so doing, plug holes in the marketplace, according to David Whitlinger, executive director of New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC).

"There's no one entity that can develop all the tools to make this possible and, quite frankly, why would you want that?" he said. Rather, it takes an ecosystem to innovate the new product that will close those marketplace gaps existing today.

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Whitlinger identified those marketplace gaps as access to patient information by all providers; secure methods for sending health data between healthcare organizations; notification, alerting and monitoring to proactively manage care; cross-community care plan management tools; patient access to their health information and engaging customer tools; and analytics to help manage and measure the healthcare system.  

 "If you're an entrepreneur, take this slide home," Whitlinger offered to the overflowing crowd during the session 'Statewide Health Information Network of New York: HIE strategy 2.0' at the Oct. 15 NYeC Digital Health 2012 conference in New York City.

He explained that creating a new product for any of the categories is almost a guaranteed hit, and pointed to more than 30,000 businesses and 30 million patients in New York State as a market unto itself.

The difficult part thus far has been connecting the pool of talented innovators with the marketplace gap, due in large part to a lack of data, standards, and policies to entrust that data is moved around securely. But that is changing, and Whitlinger said: "We believe at this point, nationally, this has the opportunity to take hold."

To that end, NYeC created the SHIN-NY Service Platform and has already enrolled six of the state's 11 RHIOs to turn their HIE hardware and software over to NYeC, which essentially shrunk it down to a single platform and made it available to participants as a service, much like a public utility, that delivers a lower price per technology unit while maximizing the volume of users, Whitlinger explained. 

 "That's what we're doing in New York," Whitlinger said. "That's what we hope to export to the rest of the country."

The idea takes its roots from the IT world, and Whitlinger's own time there spent at Intel, to essentially create technologies and then open those via application programming interfaces, very much the way that Apple does with iOS and Google has done with Android.

Whitlinger and his staff at NYeC have been laying a foundation to foster that manner of innovation on top of that HIE platform, regionally at first, and at the conference announced eight participants in its Accelerator program, which are playing with the sandbox, some on existing technologies such as the Direct and Connect protocols. 

"In the coming year we are going to be looking at several app companies," Whitlinger said. "We look for you one and all to come play in the SHIN-NY sandbox, and hopefully have a welcome community of partners and providers happy to use what you produce."

Later this year, he added, NYeC will detail developer forums that will occur next year.