Government and Health Care

Health information exchange joins Midwest initiative

October 25, 2016
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Great Lakes Health Connect GLHC
Great Lakes Health Connect, or GLHC, is a nonprofit health information exchange, or HIE, based in Grand Rapids. Photo via

A group of health information exchanges in the Midwest are joining together to create and test a new concept with the goal of improving health care for patients.

Grand Rapids-based Great Lakes Health Connect said it is participating in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator’s recently announced Cooperative Agreement program.

The initiative, known as “The Heartland Project,” will be undertaken in cooperation with the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative to create and test a concept called the Patient Centered Data Home, or PCDH.

Participating organizations in the Heartland Project will share the award from HHS to pilot the PCDH over a 12-month period.

The Heartland Project is being led by The Health Collaborative, an HIE based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Five other Midwest HIEs, in addition to GLHC, are participating in the initiative. They include the Indiana Health Information Exchange based in Indianapolis, Indiana; HealthLINC based in Bloomington, Indiana; East Tennessee Health Information Network based in Knoxville, Tennessee; Michiana Health Information Network based in South Bend, Indiana; and The Kentucky Health Information Exchange based in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Julie Klausing, senior director of program and technical operations at GLHC, said the project involves creating connections among the participants to share and exchange a patient’s admission, discharge and transfer notifications across state lines.

“Upon admission to a participating hospital in Michigan, our system will automatically identify a patient’s home state by their ZIP code, then send a message to their local HIE — what we refer to as their Patient Centered Data Home — and their designated physician, informing them that a hospital admission has occurred in Michigan,” Klausing said.

She said the connection will also give the treating physician in Michigan the ability to query and retrieve “pertinent clinical information” on that patient, and have it delivered as a continuity of care document, which is a standard report format used by acute and ambulatory health care providers.

While each individual HIE may be operating on various different platforms, Klausing said the base code used in creating admission, discharge and transfer messages and continuity of care documents are based on nationally accepted standards.

“This enables each HIE to read the information at the raw code level and convert it to a format that is easily understood by the physician and their patient,” she said.

Klausing said the initiative will “set the stage” for expanding on the types of electronic health information that can be shared.

“Long term, we hope to demonstrate the use of this approach as a means of developing a national network for sharing electronic patient records and care data,” she said.

Klausing said presently there are several initiatives underway with the goal of building a national health information exchange infrastructure, all of which are in the early stages.

“In theory, we have the technical capability right now,” she said. “But there are other non-technical questions related to security, federal and state regulatory standards, and unique patient identification that have yet to be addressed.”

Klausing said part of the motivation behind the Heartland Project is to present an alternative approach for a national health information exchange that follows a collaborative model of “existing leaders” in different geographic areas.

Klausing said GLHC will continue to focus on building its connected network in Michigan while participating in the project.

GLHC facilitates the transmission of more than a billion messages each year for 129 hospitals, and nearly 4,000 primary, specialty and allied provider offices across the state. GLHC houses individual patient records for approximately 7 million Michiganders in its community health record repository.

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