Blog from June, 2021

Hannah Nelson

A northeast Indiana health system has joined the statewide HIE to support public health efforts that lean on interoperability and data exchange.

Parkview Health, a 10-hospital health system in northeast Indiana, has joined the Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE) to support statewide, data-driven public health efforts powered by interoperability.

IHIE is the non-profit organization that operates the Indiana Network for Patient Care (INPC), the largest inter-organizational clinical data source in the country. INPC has data on more than 17 million patients from over 117 hospitals, 18,000 practices, and 50,000 providers.

“As Indiana’s statewide health information exchange, IHIE believes it has a responsibility to securely gather, analyze, and communicate information in the best interest of public health, and specifically, in support of the Indiana Department of Health,” John Kansky, chief executive officer of IHIE, said in a press release.

IHIE consolidated with Michiana Health Information Network (MHIN) in 2020 to form a statewide HIE, providing healthcare stakeholders with a comprehensive source of connected patient information.

The consolidation has allowed IHIE to accrue clinical data to improve patient care and support public and population health initiatives, the HIE noted.

Now, the HIE’s clinical database will grow even larger with Parkview as a new partner.

“I believe Parkview’s participation will have a significant positive impact, and we greatly appreciate their participation,” Kansky continued.

Ron Double, chief information officer of Parkview Health, noted that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of secure data exchange for collaboration and innovation.

“We understand the power of data and its impact on the health of our community,” said Ron Double, chief information officer of Parkview Health. “The pandemic demonstrated the importance of securely sharing information and collaborating with agencies across the state. Parkview is looking forward to seeing the impact of this partnership, especially in research and innovation.”

Parkview’s participation will enhance the statewide asset by increasing interoperability for care coordination and public health research efforts, the organizations said.

“Data are essential to us in our work to protect the health and safety of Hoosiers,” said Kristina Box, MD, FACOG, state health commissioner. “Adding Parkview Health to IHIE will greatly enhance our ability to make data-driven, evidence-based decisions for the whole state.”

IHIE has not only supported statewide interoperability efforts, but national ones, too.

Earlier this year, IHIE and five other major health information exchanges (HIEs) formed the Consortium for State and Regional Interoperability (CSRI).

CSRI aims to boost nationwide patient data exchange by progressing patient data exchange initiatives across the country and promoting state-to-state interoperability for providers, health plans, Medicaid programs, and public health departments.

Additionally, CSRI will form data-driven healthcare insights for federal agencies to advise critical policy decisions and increase health IT innovation.

The consortium is made up of IHIE, Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP), which covers Maryland, District of Columbia, and West Virginia; CyncHealth in Nebraska and Iowa; Health Current of Arizona; Manifest MedEx of California; and Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO).

“CSRI is well-positioned to leverage economies of scale on projects that have the potential to move the interoperability needle in a big way,” Morgan Honea, CEO of CORHIO, told in a February interview. “I am incredibly excited to be a part of this innovative group and look forward to developing and delivering HIT that can help solve significant data problems.”

In the fight against COVID-19, the six HIEs partnered with their local public health departments to enhance data exchange. The HIEs supported test ordering and scheduling with state and county clinics, as well as the development of dashboards for COVID-19 test results, mortality, and hospitalizations. The HIEs also supported contact tracing efforts, COVID-19 alerts, and predictive analytics to identify high-risk patients.

Hannah Nelson

To recover from COVID-19’s financial downturn and improve patient outcomes, healthcare organizations are prioritizing health IT and EHR optimization.

Healthcare organizations are investing in health IT resources and EHR optimization after a year of COVID-19 financial turbulence, according to the 9th annual Health IT Industry Outlook survey conducted by Stoltenberg Consulting Inc.

The survey collected insights from chief information officers (CIOs) or IT directors at a variety of healthcare facilities.

According to the results, EHR optimization is a big-ticket item for most CIOs in 2021. More than half of respondents (59 percent) said that "getting the most out of existing IT purchases, like the EHR system" is their healthcare organization’s biggest financial goal post-COVID-19.

“In a rapidly evolving environment, technology must adapt to the changing needs of healthcare and the changing preferences of consumers more directly involved in their own care journeys,” the researchers wrote.

Approximately one in three CIOs (31 percent) reported that EHR new version upgrades are the top IT spending priority for their healthcare organizations, while one in four industry leaders reported investment in cybersecurity measures as the top spending priority for 2021.

However, despite CIOs reporting greater investment in EHR upgrades, 33 percent of respondents said cybersecurity was their organization’s top mission-critical priority compared to 30 percent who reported EHR upgrades as the top mission-critical priority.  This is likely due to the uptick in healthcare cybersecurity events in 2021, the report authors noted.

Additionally, after a pause in early 2020, healthcare mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are growing in popularity once again, prompting CIO interest in health IT system integration, the survey authors explained. Approximately 20 percent of CIOs reported that IT integration after system consolidation is a mission-critical priority, indicating the need for high-quality IT support.

However, more than half of respondents (55 percent) reported that as they face decreased revenues from COVID-19, budgeting for qualified IT resources is their organization’s most significant operational burden for the second consecutive year.

The researchers said that enabling a mix of flexible and properly skilled staff is key as CIOs seek to lessen administrative burden and control costs.

When IT support teams are well-versed in both the EHR system and the healthcare organization’s cross-organizational workflow and communication practices, they can better tailor processes to maximize efficiency and system utilization, the researchers explained.

“At a time when the digital experience has become a competitive differentiator for hospitals and health systems, many internally operated help desks cannot handle the crush of inquiries coming their way,” the researchers wrote. “Utilizing IT support resources who can easily flex in and out of project area needs is pivotal for nimble response that better optimizes IT spending without draining resource costs or adding on ramp up and training time.”

Additionally, the researchers called for CIOs to apply analytics to end-user support. By doing so, organizations can determine where further investment is needed. For instance, help desk incident analysis helps underscore large-scale workflow or system education difficulties, the researchers said.

“As a clear view into organization-wide EHR use, this is especially helpful during mission critical events, like crisis management, new system go lives or EHR upgrades to detect areas of concern,” the report authors wrote.