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NY HIE Hits Record Number of EHR Alerts, Patient Data Lookups

COVID-19 triggered a severe increase in EHR alerts and patient data lookups across Western New York healthcare organizations.

Patient data lookups by county and state health departments doubled and EHR alerts sky-rocketed in Western New York during COVID-19, according to a HEALTHeLINK 2020 report.

Since March, the HIE sent over 5.4 million COVID-19 alert notifications to its connected healthcare organizations.

Leaders at HEALTHeLINK, a health information exchange (HIE) that spans over Western New York and is part of the Statewide Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY), stated the value of patient data exchange has never been more evident as it has been during COVID-19.

“We understand the unique and critical role HEALTHeLINK has to securely share clinical information and to also support our health care community in times of crisis,” Dan Porreca, executive director of HEALTHeLINK, said in an emailed statement.

“We proved it once again as throughout the pandemic, HEALTHeLINK has enabled treating providers to securely obtain their patients’ current health information where it’s needed, when it’s needed. We also continue to support the community with our core services including alert notifications and health record lookup. As the numbers show, even more providers and practices are utilizing HEALTHeLINK for improved, more efficient coordination of patient care,” Porreca continued.

In 2020, the HIE partnered with several county health departments and the New York State Department of Health to streamline epidemiology, surveillance, and other COVID-19 response efforts.

As noted, HEALTHeLINK delivered more than 10 million alert notifications. These alerts aided providers with patient admissions, discharges, and transfers. The alerts included information on local emergency department visits throughout the year.

HIE participants also looked up patient data over six million times over the year, doubled from 2019. This data is highlighted by test results and patient medication history.

In the beginning of the year, HEALTHeLINK launched a community population health tool, HEALTHeOUTCOMES, that leverages clinical data from its data sources and claims data from top healthcare payers, such as BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health, and Univera Healthcare.

The HIE was also awarded National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Data Aggregator Validation status. Because it was one of the first HIEs in the country to achieve this status, it ensured the clinical data exchange integrity from its data sources to maintain quality reporting requirements.

The network also announced it joined the Healthy Community Alliance task force. This committee aims to boost patient data exchange across the community and improve social determinants of health (SDOH) data integration across healthcare.

In 2020 alone, health IT professionals at HEALTHeLINK worked on roughly 90 different tools and products to improve the HIE’s foundation and services.

“Health information exchange (HIE) continues to play a vital role in the delivery and quality of patient care,” concluded the report authors. “In 2020, it was demonstrated and verified that the sharing of clinical information can be leveraged even further in support of population health initiatives, playing a role to help predict health outcomes for the coronavirus pandemic and other health care crises that may occur in the future.”

The COVID-19 outbreak presented a number of challenges for both patients and providers, and HIEs held promise to ameliorate inconsistent interoperability.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, HEALTHeLINK changed its requirements during the spread of the coronavirus.

The HIE waived the requirement to get patient consent before delivering COVID-19 results to providers that treat a patient.

HEALTHeLINK, which also facilitates electronic medical record keeping, also streamlined epidemiology, surveillance and related efforts that include sending patient test result notifications to providers.

This came after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new notification procedure that required hospitals to notify relevant clinicians if their patient is undergoing coronavirus treatment.

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