MI HIE Teams Up with AI/AN Tribe for Bidirectional Interoperability

The HIE partnership will enable patient data exchange between tribal and non-tribal providers for bidirectional interoperability.

The Michigan Health Information Network (MiHIN) recently announced a significant step towards advancing bidirectional interoperability by adding the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi (NHBP) to its state-designated health information exchange (HIE).

Upon joining MiHIN, bidirectional data exchange was initiated between tribal and non-tribal facilities to improve the quality and safety of care for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations in Michigan. Through this move, NHBP, consisting of 1,900 members, can track patients’ healthcare journey medical system using the Active Care Relationship Service (ACRS), a centralized MiHIN solution for data sharing across organizations.

"NHBP’s decision to join MiHIN reflects its commitment to improving healthcare outcomes and providing patient-centered medical care for our members," Rosalind Johnston, health and human services director for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, said in a public statement. "We are excited to partner with MIHIN and leverage their state-of-the-art solutions to access accurate and timely health information that will allow us to improve outcomes, reduce costs, and enhance the overall quality of care.”

In addition to adopting ACRS, the NHBP has integrated several other tools, such as ReferralsPlus, to streamline the referral process for healthcare providers.

Immunizations Use Case has also been implemented as part of this collaboration, facilitating the electronic transmission of immunization records to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the state's immunization information system (IIS).

Tim Pletcher, executive director of MIHIN, expressed his excitement about NHBP joining the MIHIN network. He said that enhancing the tribal representation in healthcare data will result in better health equity, outcomes, and patient satisfaction for tribal patients.

“This is a huge milestone in our ability to improve outcomes for all Michigan residents and will further drive interoperability across the state, helping to advance our mission of improving outcomes and reducing costs through the safe and secure exchange of data,” Pletcher stated in the press release.

As of the latest update, nine out of the 12 tribes, along with the Urban Indian Health Center, have tapped into the statewide network for exchanging health information, MiHIN reported.

Yet, it’s worth noting that NHBP is no stranger to HIE technology. The tribe has been accessing MCIR VXU messages for nearly seven years and submitting to the ACRS since 2019. Nonetheless, their participation in the statewide network is a crucial development,

“By actively participating in the health information exchange they will be able to coordinate and provide better patient care and improve health equity in a way that ensures patient health information is protected from unauthorized access and is used in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way,” Elliott-Egan stated.

Providing indigenous communities with access to quality health data is crucial, a critical lesson learned from the COVID pandemic, said Lorna Elliott-Egan, director of tribal government services and policy with the state’s health department, in a press release.

Without proper interoperability, large consequences can arise, such as difficulties, delayed diagnosis, and treatment, poor health outcomes, incomplete understanding of patient data, and health disparities.

“One of the biggest lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of ensuring access to good health data to Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes and urban Indian Health Center,” said Lorna Elliott-Egan, director of Tribal Government Services & Policy with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “As sovereign nations, Michigan tribes should have access to solid data to serve their citizens and other Indigenous patients well, and I am excited to see the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi make great strides toward obtaining this important information.”

Correction 05/08/2023: A previous version of this article indicated that the NHBP is now recognized as the first Michigan-based tribe to gain access to Active Care Relationship Service (ACRS). The article has been updated to reflect that the NHBP is the first federally recognized tribe in the state to initiate its own access to the Active Care Relationship Service (ACR) - an important distinction.

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