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Hannah Nelson

An updated health IT roadmap outlines several initiatives that aim to boost interoperability across the state for improved care coordination.

Colorado’s Office of eHealth Innovation (OeHI) has released an updated health IT roadmap which outlines the state’s data sharing approach that aims to enhance interoperability and improve care coordination.

The roadmap, which was a collaborative effort between over 50 individuals and organizations across the state, outlined the state’s overarching interoperability goals: supporting better data sharing infrastructure, increasing access to in-person and virtual care through coordinated systems, and improving health equity.

While most hospitals in the state are connected to health information exchanges (HIEs), many healthcare organizations, in particular rural safety net and behavioral health providers, are not able to share information broadly through HIEs due to affordability and outdated EHR systems.  

Colorado’s Rural Connectivity Program, led by OeHI and the eHealth Commission, is focused on helping rural safety net and behavioral health providers to connect to HIEs.

“Opening equitable, secure, and affordable IT pathways for patients, their providers, payers, community partners, and state agencies to connect with and share health and social services, information, and data would create an IT ecosystem that provides a more holistic look at health,” OeHI officials noted in the roadmap.

“Addressing this need puts Colorado stakeholders in prime position for advancing Colorado’s goals of affordability, access, and equity,” they continued.

Greater patient data sharing across providers is expected to reduce duplicative services and lower costs, the roadmap authors pointed out. Supporting better data sharing infrastructure across clinical and social care organizations is also expected to improve care access by focusing on whole-person health, the roadmap noted.

OeHI said that many health systems, communities, and state agencies are actively working on sharing information to improve whole-person care.

For instance, the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy & Financing’s joint agency interoperability efforts will enable cross-agency information sharing through data standardization, officials said.

Additionally, the Office of Behavioral Health will implement a plan to strengthen the behavioral health safety net system through coordinated health IT infrastructure, OeHI officials wrote.

“This step is critical for the Behavioral Health Administration, which will align, coordinate, and integrate state mental health and substance use programs and funding to streamline access and lower barriers to services for patients,” they said.

Next, OeHI said it will strive to provide all Coloradans with access to high-quality in-person, virtual, and remote health services that are coordinated through health IT systems.

The COVID-19 virtual health boom solidified telehealth as a convenient and reliable solution for delivering whole-person care, officials noted.

Providing whole-person care requires information from virtual and remote visits to be available, accessible, and shared across the care continuum. However, EHR systems do not always incorporate virtual and remote tools readily. Additionally, some virtual providers, especially those delivering care to Coloradans out of state, are not sharing data through health information exchanges.

The roadmap outlines Colorado’s plan for a Social-Health Information Exchange (S-HIE) infrastructure. The person-centered network is set to include a robust statewide resource directory, interoperable platforms for referral and care coordination, and functionality to track health outcomes.

“OeHI and the eHealth Commission are committed to the development of a flexible and interoperable S-HIE infrastructure that supports coordinated whole-person care across the physical, social, and behavioral health domains,” the roadmap authors wrote.

“Whole-person care coordination across in-person, virtual, and remote services for personal health and social needs is only possible with a connected and interoperable ecosystem and infrastructure,” the authors noted.

Lastly, the roadmap outlined the goal of improving health equity through the inclusive and innovative use of health IT and digital health tools.

“Several studies have found that non or limited English speakers have lower rates of telemedicine use, strengthening the need to consider how systems can better integrate live interpretation and digital translation services into their infrastructure to promote greater communication and digital equity,” the authors wrote.