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HIE Collaboratives Boost Interoperability Through Shared Best Practices

State and regional HIEs are helping to boost nationwide interoperability through collaboratives where health IT leaders can share best practices.

Health information exchanges (HIEs) are paving the way for nationwide interoperability, and HIE collaboratives are amplifying these efforts through shared best practices.

HIEs support patient health data exchange across a network of providers, supporting care coordination, public health initiatives, and case reporting.

For instance, state and regional HIEs like Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE), worked closely with ONC to support the COVID-19 pandemic response.

John Kansky, president and CEO of IHIE, noted that the federal government recognized HIE data exchange capabilities could supporting the COVID-19 response and proposed a national aggregated dashboard of HIE data.

While this was theoretically possible, connecting all the HIEs nationwide would be a massive undertaking, Kansky said. IHIE and five other HIEs got together to show what could be done quickly.

For the benefit of ONC and the CDC, the organizations put together a six-state combined dashboard of pandemic data.

Kansky explained that this project highlighted the HIEs’ like-minded goals and capabilities, leading them to form the Consortium for State and Regional Interoperability (CSRI) to share best practices for serving patients through health information exchange.

The five other members of CSRI include Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP), covering Maryland, District of Columbia, and West Virginia; Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO); CyncHealth, spanning through Nebraska and Iowa; Health Current of Arizona; and Manifest MedEx of California.

During the pandemic, the CSRI members all faced different policy barriers to data sharing with their state governments. Kansky explained that the collaborative helped the HIEs to share best practices and ideas to meet COVID-19 case reporting needs.

“We were able to compare notes and figure out how we could navigate some of those challenges,” Kansky told EHRIntelligence. “I've always wanted to have a close-knit group of other CEOs facing some of the same challenges I was to bounce things off of.”

Kansky noted that the collaborative has also helped IHIE build on relationships with state agencies.

“One of the big things that's sort of a spectrum across the six organizations is how closely we work with different agencies in the state government,” he said. “We've certainly been able to learn from the experiences of others. For example, a few of our CSRI partners have been willing to participate on calls with Indiana state government officials to share some of the things that they're doing in other states.”

IHIE is also a part of a larger collaborative of HIEs formally called the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) which is made up of more than 80 HIEs that collectively serve 95 percent of the nation.

At the collaborative’s annual conference this year, SHIEC announced that it has consolidated with the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI), Kansky said. The new organization is called Civitas Networks for Health.

“NRHI’s members, Regional Health Improvement Collaboratives, and HIEs have a lot of common ambitions to try and improve healthcare, and they both deal heavily with healthcare data,” Kansky said. “There's a lot of natural synergy between the two organizations.”

The annual conference allows HIE leaders the opportunity to come together and collaborate on their data exchange capabilities.

“There's so much going on in the national health data interoperability space that I certainly look forward to participating in that conference more than any other one because it's the one most focused on our business,” Kansky said. “You have great opportunities to network and share ideas with people from other states. That's a big part of the value.”

At this years’ conference, Kansky said that he formed connections with NRHI members and learned more about all-payer claims databases.

“About half the states have all-payer claims databases or are working on them, and Indiana is building one,” Kansky said. “I didn't realize how involved the NRHI members were in all-payer claims databases, so I really connected with some of our partners at Civitas to connect and learn more about all-payer claims databases to help Indiana.”

Kansky noted that SHIEC’s initiatives for interstate clinical data sharing have contributed to national interoperability efforts.

“Most healthcare is local, but then there are times when people move across state lines for healthcare,” he explained. “For example, Northwest Indiana, the second largest population center in the state, is essentially a suburb of the Chicago market, so there's hundreds, if not thousands of patients crossing the state line between Indiana and Illinois to receive care every day.”

“Anything we can do to support the interstate transfer of data supports health and healthcare, regardless of the state lines,” Kansky continued.

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