No EHR required with new data-sharing

New technology offers tool for HIE without an EHR
By Erin McCann
10:22 AM

Electronic health records – who needs them? 

Thanks to a new data-sharing capability created by Pennsylvania’s Keystone Beacon Community, skilled nursing facilities can now contribute patient information to a regional health information exchange (HIE) without an EHR

Officials say this new data-sharing capability will enable clinicians at other healthcare facilities participating in the HIE to access the information when and where it is needed to provide better care for patients. 

The Keystone Beacon project is a Geisinger-led federally funded initiative aimed at strengthening local health IT infrastructure and improving patient care quality at lower costs. 

[See also: Geisinger cuts readmissions with tech help.]

Leveraging the existing federal mandate for skilled nursing facilities to submit electronic patient assessments known as minimum data sets (MDSs) to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, software company Caradigm -- a joint creation by GE Healthcare and Microsoft -- created a MDS-to-CCD Transformer.

This transformer automatically extracts patient-care data from the records of consenting patients, transforms it into a standard Continuity of Care Document (CCD) format using the approach developed by the Keystone Beacon Community, and then transfers it to a designated HIE. 

Here, the patient information -- including diagnoses and patient functional status -- can be accessed by any licensed clinician who has agreed to keep the information private and secure. 

Keystone Beacon officials say this information will help physicians, nurses and other care team members to provide better, more coordinated care.

Keystone Beacon’s new data-sharing initiative was made possible by the Geisinger Clinic, which received a three-year $16 million award from the Office of the National Coordinator  to improve health IT and patient care in local communities. 

According to Jim Walker, MD, Geisinger Health System's Chief Health Information Officer, the MDS-to-CCD Transformer will facilitate health exchange connectivity for skilled nursing facilities across the country. "Any skilled nursing facility can now share a patient's information inexpensively and securely, which helps the patient's care team work better together," notes Walker.

[See also: Pennsylvania changes HIE strategy with ARRA funds.]

"We are proud to have the Emmanuel Center for Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation involved in establishing this initiative with the Keystone Beacon Community," said Tom Conlin, chief operating officer of Maria Joseph Continuing Care Community. "The ability to more easily exchange information about our residents' medical treatment will enable us to offer more complete assessments of their needs when they are first admitted and after they receive care at another facility,” he said. “This process will also expedite the admission from other healthcare facilities to us. Better communication among healthcare providers can avoid unnecessary costs and procedures and will help skilled nursing facilities to provide the most personalized care possible."

Established by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2009, the Beacon Community Cooperative Agreement Program is designed to accelerate and demonstrate the ability of health IT to transform local healthcare systems to advance a patient-centered vision of care, improve care quality and reduce cost. One of the 17 communities selected by HHS to receive funding, Keystone Beacon Community is a network of healthcare providers in Central Pennsylvania – doctors, hospitals, long-term care communities and others – who have joined together to help coordinate and manage their patients' care, reduce hospital admissions, and improve their patients' quality of life.

[See also: Geisinger and IBM collaborate on new IT infrastructure.]

"Putting patients at the center of care means establishing strong connections among a community's healthcare providers, especially post-acute care organizations," said Michael Simpson, CEO of Caradigm. "We're excited to work with Geisinger and the Keystone Beacon Community to enable the sharing of patient information between skilled nursing facilities and regional HIEs. This is an important milestone in improving the quality of care for patients as they make transitions across the health system."