January 11, 2018
What’s also promising is that HIE leaders see the PCDH concept helping in emergency situations, such as the Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey disaster that struck Houston and southeast Texas late last summer. In fact, it was Phil Beckett, chief information officer at HASA (Healthcare Access San Antonio, a San Antonio-based HIE), who spoke to Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland about this very topic at SHIEC’s annual conference, an event which took place during the same time as the Harvey storm was unfolding.
Beckett told Hagland at the conference, “This is also a situation in which the concept of the patient-centered data home, which the SHIEC organization is promoting and encouraging, and which has been a topic of discussion at this conference, comes into play…We were on a call that was sponsored by SHIEC, and were talking about the patient-centered data home, which provides a more accurate, precise way to share data. When we make use of this concept, it means that we’re storing a zip code list of zip codes that each HIE covers, and then if a patient shows up in one of our facilities with that zip code, we will send a notification with the home state of that patient, so that we’re connected across state lines with good demographics, since we don’t have single identifiers. That will help” in situations like this one with Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey, Beckett said.
Indeed, it certainly seems as if a foundation for interoperability between HIEs has arrived. With SHIEC’s announcement last week, Leigh Sterling, executive director, East Tennessee Health Information Network (etHIN), had a quote that I thought was extremely telling about the capabilities of the patient-centered data home. Sterling said, “etHIN’s region contains the most visited national park in the country. Because visitors to our area often seek medical attention while they are here, we have medical data on patients living in all 50 states. PCDH is the best way to provide needed information to our local treating providers and to keep the patient’s hometown physicians informed of out-of-town treatment events.”
At the end of the day, isn’t that exactly what we wanted HIEs to accomplish from day one? The ability to have medical data on patients in all 50 states fulfills the spirit of what healthcare leaders set out to facilitate years ago with the advent of health information exchanges.
Now that’s not to say that HIEs themselves still don’t have their fair share of roadblocks with questions around their ability to remain viable only growing over time. But it’s quite promising to see that those HIEs that are successful can now interoperate with one another. To this end, last week federal health officials also released its draft Trusted Exchange Framework, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, calling the development “a significant step towards achieving interoperability.” The Framework outlines a common set of principles for trusted exchange and minimum terms and conditions for trusted exchange, with the idea being to bridge the gap between providers’ and patients’ information systems and enable interoperability across disparate health information networks.
For anyone who has been paying attention, it’s been a long and rocky road for HIEs and interoperability. That journey is nowhere near finished, but thanks to initiatives such as the patient-centered data home, the arrow is pointing up.