Regional health information exchanges team up with IBM and other IT vendors to build the massive Statewide Health Information Network of New York.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

June 12, 2012

5 Min Read

8 Health Information Exchanges Lead The Way

8 Health Information Exchanges Lead The Way

8 Health Information Exchanges Lead The Way (click image for larger for slideshow)

In a bid to ramp up its statewide health information exchange, New York has corralled three Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) and three health IT vendors to participate in the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY).

As an increasing number of N.Y.-based private practices, nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals are using electronic health records (EHRs), many have connected their systems to RHIOs in their part of the state. These RHIOs collect health record data from the healthcare providers in their area, and, with patient consent, allow this information to be shared securely with other providers in the region.

SHIN-NY, which functions like a public utility, will connect these RHIOs to create a private and secure network spanning the entire state. A recent announcement made by the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), along with the New York State Department of Health, said the three RHIOs include the Brooklyn Health Information Exchange, the e-Health Network of Long Island, and the Taconic Health Information Network and Community (THINC). They're joined by vendors HealthUnity, IBM, and InterSystems.

The vendors will facilitate a network of information transmitted across New York's downstate region--comprised of New York City's five boroughs, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley--with a combined population of 13 million people.

[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security. ]

Officials view the collaboration as a significant step in the creation of a single, unified statewide network for healthcare records. SHIN-NY is coordinated by NYeC and will unify existing state health information exchange (HIE) initiatives, including those within hospital systems and local RHIOs. The SHIN-NY network will also allow physicians to access patient data from multiple providers' EHRs at healthcare delivery organizations across the state, saving time and money.

Among the technology tools being applied to support the statewide information network is HealthUnity's XCA/XCPD gateway, a set of standards-based mechanisms that allow clinicians to query patient documents across networks, and which lets networks connect to one another.

"Now that we've established the collaboration with our first three RHIOs and HIE vendors, we will be creating the XCA gateways to connect everyone together," David Whitlinger, executive director at NYeC told InformationWeek Healthcare. "The next steps are agreements with more RHIOs and more vendors--which are very much in the works now--and connecting them."

Whitlinger also explained that NYeC's engineering team needs to build interfaces to connect each system, as they join the SHIN-NY. "Everything goes through rigorous testing phases offline." Whitlinger said. "As for policy, we have a policy team at NYeC that works with the New York State Department of Health and the federal government to continue to refine policy to ensure patient privacy is protected. As new elements of health IT develop, policy needs to be refined, so it's a continuous process."

Initially SHIN-NY will function as a tool that lets providers look up patient records, powered by IBM's InfoSphere Master Data Management software. Through this search engine, providers can access patient health records across databases within the SHIN-NY network.

Lorraine Fernandes, IBM's global healthcare ambassador, said the InfoSphere Master Data Management software comes with sophisticated algorithms that can parse multiple sources of data to create a single view of individual patients. Fernandes gave an example of how the system would sort through her personal information, noting that some sources might register her last name as Fernandes ending with an S while other facilities might mistakenly capture her last name with a Z.

"Our technology and those sophisticated algorithms allow the authorized user to determine where I have data and creates that single view [which helps] the business process and the integration come into play to tie the clinical data to a single view of my demographic data," Fernandes said.

SHIN-NY will also make use of Direct Exchange, which works like email, where providers can query each other while collaborating on patient care.

Officials note that SHIN-NY will particularly benefit patients with chronic conditions who generate data from a variety of providers and treatment facilities. By accessing their records through SHIN-NY, clinicians can coordinate care and reduce the number of duplicate tests ordered.

The network will also help prevent harmful drug interactions and highlight risks, allowing providers in emergency situations access to life-saving information, such as a patient's allergy and medication history.

Paul Grabscheid, InterSystems VP of strategic planning, said his company, which provides a platform for healthcare informatics, is very pleased to provide the HIE backbone technology for many of the RHIOs that will be served through NYeC.

"We are totally committed to taking connected care to the higher, more inclusive level that is essential to support optimal care delivery throughout the State of New York," Grabscheid said in a statement. "To reach this goal, we need to move beyond low-level data exchange and implement strategic platforms with the intelligent aggregation and advanced analytics needed to improve individual and population health."

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