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Health Data Sharing and Patient Centered Care with DataMotion Health

Posted on April 13, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Now that the HIMSS Haze has worn off, we thought we’d start sharing some of the great video interviews we did at HIMSS 2016. In this case, we did a 3 pack of interviews at the DataMotion Health booth where we got some amazing insights into health data sharing, engaging patients, and providing patient centered care.

First up is our chat with Dr. Peter Tippett, CEO of Healthcelerate and Co-Chairman of DataMotion Health, about the evolution of healthcare data sharing. Dr. Tippett offers some great insights into the challenge of structured vs unstructured data. He also talks about some of the subtleties of medicine that are often lost when trying to share data. Plus, you can’t talk with Dr. Tippett without some discussion of ensuring the privacy and security of health data.

Next up, we talked with Dennis Robbins, PHD, MPH, National Thought Leader and member of DataMotion Health’s Advisory Board, about the patient perspective on all this technology. He provides some great insights into patients’ interest in healthcare and how we need to treat them more like people than like patients. Dr. Robbins was a strong voice for the patient at HIMSS.

Finally we talked with Bob Janacek, Co-Founder and CTO of DataMotion Health, about the challenges associated with coordinating the entire care team in healthcare. The concept of the care team is becoming much more important in healthcare and making sure the care team is sharing the most accurate data is crucial to their success. Learn from Bob about the role Direct plays in this data sharing.

Thanks DataMotion Health for having us to your booth and having your experts share their insights with the healthcare IT community. I look forward to seeing you progress in your continued work to make health data sharing accessible, secure, and easy for healthcare organizations.

A 10 Year Old Child Shows Us Why A Direct Project Directory Is Unnecessary

Posted on December 15, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I recently hosted a panel of direct project experts. During the panel, Greg Meyers (@greg_meyer93) talked about why the need for a Direct Address directory was overstated. He argued that doctors could collect the direct addresses for the network of providers they refer to on their own quite easily. A directory would be nice, but you could still easily get value from direct without one.

To prove this point, Greg sent over this great story about his niece.

This past weekend, my wife’s family held their Christmas dinner and gift exchange, and the actions from my 10 year old niece were the highlight of my day. She has been desperately wanting a iPod Touch for quite some time for simple tween workflows such as taking pictures/video, downloading apps, and emailing/video chatting with her friends. With me being the corruptive spoiler of my sister-in-law’s children, I got permission a few months back to get her daughter the prized iTouch as a Christmas present.

From the moment she opened it, her excitement almost exploded out of her face. She spent the first hour asking Siri silly little girl questions, but the next hour was a display of simple intuition and what appears to achieve what some in the Health IT domain describe as almost impossible.

The tasks was simple: setup her email and FaceTime so she could start communicating with her family and friend immediately. Keep in mind this a child whose only electronic presence is her GMail account mandated via her 5th grade class; no Facebook, no SnapChat, no Twitter, no WhatsApp, and no access to a repository of electronic endpoints other than what she could find with a google search.

We went down the path of getting FaceTime associated with an AppleId and configuring the email app with access to her GMail account. What happened next was my moment of the year. She went around asking all her family members for email addresses and entering them into her contacts list. Anybody that had an apple device, she asked if they were on FaceTime and tried to initiate a test video conversation. If she had issues connecting to them, she would ask them to initiate a conversation by giving them her address and added them into her contacts after terminating a test chat. She tried adding some her classmates via the email addresses she knew, but when she failed, she said she would just call them or ask when she went back to school on Monday. By the time the day was over, she had built a respectable network (with validated endpoints) with her closest contacts and formed solid plan of how to continue to build her network. Oh, and she did this without the assistance of a directory; just plain old simple leg work.

I’m kicking myself for not following her with a video camera, but I think this poetically demonstrated the ability to build useful networks via the trivial thought processes of a tween girl.

Thanks Greg for sharing the story. Sometimes we seem to forget that not all solutions have to be technical and we don’t have to be hand fed everything. Here’s the video interview with Greg Meyers, Julie Mass and Mark Hefner for those that want to learn more about Direct Project:

Element-Centric or Document-Centric Interoperability

Posted on February 17, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A recent Chilmark blog post on national healthcare interoperability mentioned two approaches to healthcare interoperability: element-centric interoperability and document-centric exchange.

As I think back on the thousands of discussions I’ve had on interoperability, these two phrases do a great job describing the different approaches to interoperability. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen is that many people get these two approaches to interoperability mixed up. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that meaningful use’s CDA requirement is an attempt to mix these two concepts into one. It’s one part element data and one part document.

Personally, I think we should be attacking one approach or the other. Trying to mix the two causes issues and confusion for those involved. The biggest problem with mixing the two is managing people’s perception. Once doctors get a small slice of cake, they want the rest of it too. So, it’s very unsatisfying to only get part of it.

Document-Centric Exchange
The argument for document-centric exchange of healthcare data is a good one. There are many parts of the patient record that can’t really be slimmed down into a nice element-centric format. Plus, there’s a wide variation in how and what various doctors document. So, the document format provides the ultimate in flexibility when it comes to outputting and sharing this data with another provider.

Those who are against document-centric exchange highlight that this is really just a modernization of the fax machine. If all we’re doing is exchanging documents, then that’s basically replicating what we’ve been doing for years with the fax machine. Plus, they highlight the fact that you can’t incorporate any of the granular data elements from the documents into the chart for any sort of clinical decision support. It might say your allergies on the document, but the EHR won’t know about those allergies if it’s stored on a document you received from another system.

While certainly not ideal, document-centric exchange can still be a nice improvement over the fax machine. In the fax world, there was still a lot of people required to get the documents faxed over to another provider. In the document-centric exchange world this could happen in real time with little to no interaction from the provider or their staff. The fact that this is possible is exciting and worrisome to many people. However, it would facilitate getting the right information (even if in document form) to the right people at the right time.

Element-Centric Exchange
We all know that the nirvana of health information exchange is element-centric exchange. In this exchange, your entire health record is available along with a series of meta data which tells the receiving system what each data element represents. This solves the allergy problem mentioned above since in an element-centric exchange the allergy would be stored in a specific field which notes it as an allergy and the receiving system could process that element and include it in their system as if it was entered natively.

This last line scares many people when it comes to element-centric exchange. Their fear is that the information coming from an external system will not be trustworthy enough for them to include in their system. What if they receive the data from an external system and it’s wrong. This could cause them to make an incorrect decision. This fear is important to understand and we need our systems to take this into account. There are a lot of ways to solve this problem starting with special notation about where the information was obtained so that the provider can evaluate that information based on the trustworthiness of the source. As doctors often do today with outside information about a patient, they have to trust but verify the information. If it says No Known Drug Allergy, the doctor or other medical staff can verify that information with the patient.

The other major challenge with element-centric exchange is that medical information is really complex. Trying to narrow a record down to specific elements is a real challenge. It’s taken us this long to get element-centric exchange of prescription information. We’re getting pretty close there and prescriptions are relatively easy in the healthcare information world. We’re still working on labs and lab results and anyone whose worked on those interfaces understand why it’s so hard to do element-centric exchange of health information.

This doesn’t even address the challenge of processing these elements and inputting them into a new system. It’s one thing to export the data out of the source system in an element-centric format. It’s an even bigger challenge to take that outputted document and make sure it imports properly into the destination system. Now we’re talking about not only knowing which element should go where, but also the integrity and format of the data in that field. Take something as simple as a date and see the various formats which all say the same thing: 2/17/15, 2/17/2015, 02/17/2015, February 17 2015, Feb 17 2015, 17/2/2015 etc.

Where Is This Heading?
As I look into the future of interoperability, I think we’ll see both types of exchange. Document-centric exchange will continue with things like Direct Project. I also love these initiatives, because they’re connecting the end points. Regardless of what type of exchange you do, you need to trust and verify who is who in the system so that you’re sending the information to the right place. Even if document exchange using Direct isn’t the end all be all, it’s a step in a good direction. Plus, once you’re able to send your documents using direct, why couldn’t an HIE of sorts receive all of your documents? We’re still very early in the process of what Direct could become in the document-centric exchange world.

I think we have a long ways to go to really do element-centric exchange well. One challenge I see in the current marketplace is that companies, organization, and our government are trying to bite off more than they can chew. They are trying to make the entire patient chart available for an element-centric exchange. Given the current environment, I believe this is a failed strategy as is illustrated by the hundreds of millions of dollars that the government has spent on this goal.

I look forward to the day when I see some more reasonable approaches to element-centric exchange which understand the realities and complexities associated with the challenge. This reminds me of many organizations’ approach to big data. So many organizations have spent millions on these massive enterprise data warehouses which have yet to provide any value to the organization. However, lately we’ve seen a move towards small data that’s tied directly to results. I’d like to see a similar move in the element-centric exchange world. Stop trying to do element based exchange with the entire health record. Instead, let’s focus our efforts on a smaller set of meaningful elements that we can reasonable exchange.

While the idea of document-centric exchange and element-centric exchange simplify the challenge, I think it’s a great framework for understanding healthcare interoperability. Both have their pros and cons so it’s important to understand which approach you want to take. Mixing the two often leaves you with the problems of both worlds.

Modeling Health Data Architecture After DNS

Posted on September 12, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was absolutely intrigued by the idea of structuring the healthcare data architecture after DNS. As a techguy, I’m quite familiar with the structure of DNS and it has a lot of advantages (Check out the Wikipedia for DNS if you’re not familiar with it).

There are a lot of really great advantages to a system like DNS. How beautiful would it be for your data to be sent to your home base versus our current system which requires the patient to go out and try and collect the data from all of their health care providers. Plus, the data they get from each provider is never in the same format (unless you consider paper a format).

One challenge with the idea of structuring the healthcare data architecture like DNS is getting everyone a DNS entry. How do you handle the use case where a patient doesn’t have a “home” on the internet for their healthcare data? Will the first provider that you see, sign you up for a home on the internet? What if you forget your previous healthcare data home and the next provider provides you a new home. I guess the solution is to have really amazing merging and transfer tools between the various healthcare data homes.

I imagine that some people involved in Direct Project might suggest that a direct address could serve as the “home” for a patient’s health data. While Direct has mostly been focused on doctors sharing patient data with other doctors and healthcare providers, patients can have a direct address as well. Could that direct address by your home on the internet?

This will certainly take some more thought and consideration, but I’m fascinated by the distributed DNS system. I think we healthcare data interoperability can learn something from how DNS works.

Eyes Wide Shut: Meaningful Use Stage 2 Incentive Program Hardships

Posted on March 5, 2014 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a hardcore health data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, which she brings to her role as Dell Health’s Analytics Solutions Lead. She fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

In my January update on Meaningful Use Stage 2 readiness, I painted a dismal picture of a large IDN’s journey towards attestation, and expressed concern for patient safety resulting from the rush to implement and adopt what equates to, at best, beta-release health IT. Given the resounding cries for help from the healthcare provider community, including this February 2014 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, I know my experience isn’t unique. So, when rumors ran rampant at HIMSS 2014 that CMS and the ONC would make a Meaningful Use announcement, I was hopeful that relief may be in sight.

Like AHA , I was disappointed in CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner’s announcement. The new Stage 2 hardship exemptions will now include an explicit criteria for “difficulty implementing 2014-certified EHR technology” – a claim which will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and may result in a delay of the penalty phase of the Stage 2 mandate. But it does nothing to extend the incentive phase of Stage 2 – without which, many healthcare providers would not have budgeted for participation in the program, at all, including the IDN profiled in this series. So how does this help providers like mine?

Quick update on my IDN’s progress towards Stage 2 attestation, with $MM in target incentive dollars at stake. We must meet ALL measures; there is no opportunity to defer one. The Transition of Care (both populating it appropriately, and transmitting it via Direct) is the primary point of concern.

The hospital EHR is ready to generate and transmit both Inpatient Summary and Transition of Care C-CDAs. The workflow to populate the ToC required data elements adds more than 4 minutes to the depart process, which will cause operational impacts. None of the ambulatory providers in the IDN have Direct, yet; there is no one available to receive an electronic ToC. Skilled resources to implement Direct with the EHR upgrades are not available until 6-12 weeks after each upgrade is complete.

None of the 3 remaining in-scope ambulatory EHRs have successfully completed their 2014 software upgrades. 2 of the 3 haven’t started their upgrades. 1 has not provided a DATE for the upgrade.

None of the ambulatory EHRs comes with a Clinical Summary C-CDA configured out-of-the-box. 1 creates a provider-facing Transition of Care C-CDA, but does not produce the patient-facing Clinical Summary. (How did this product become CEHRT for 2014 measures?) Once the C-CDA is configured, each EHR requires its own systems integrator to develop the interface to send the clinical document to an external system.

Consultant costs continue to mount, as each new wrinkle arises. And with each wrinkle, the ability to meet the incentive program deadlines, safely, diminishes.

Playing devil’s advocate, I’d say the IDN should have negotiated its vendor contracts to include penalty clauses sufficient to cover the losses of a missed incentive program deadline – or, worst case scenario, to cover the cost of a rip-and-replace should the EHR vendor not acquire certification, or have certification revoked. The terms and conditions should have covered every nuance of the functionality required for Stage 2 measures.

But wait, CMS is still clarifying its Stage 2 measures via FAQs. Can’t expect a vendor to build software to specifications that weren’t explicitly defined, or to sign a contract that requires adherence to unknown criteria.

So, what COULD CMS and the ONC do about it? How about finalizing your requirements BEFORE issuing measures and certification criteria? Since that ship’s already sailed, change the CEHRT certification process.

1. Require vendors to submit heuristics on both initial implementation and upgrades, indicating the typical timeline from kick-off to go-live, number of internal and external resources (i.e., third-party systems integrators), and cost.
2. Require vendors to submit customer-base profile detailing known customers planning to implement and/or upgrade within calendar year. AND require implementation/upgrade planning to incorporate 3 months of QA time post-implementation/upgrade, prior to go-live with real patients.
3. Require vendors to submit human resource strategy, and hiring and training program explicitly defined to support the customer-base profile submitted, with the typical timeframes and project resource/cost profiles submitted.
4. Require vendor products to be self-contained to achieve certification – meaning, no additional third-party purchase (software or professional services) would be necessary in order to implement and/or upgrade to the certified version and have all CMS-required functionality.
5. Require vendor products to prove the CEHRT-baseline functionality is available as configurable OOTB, not only available via customization. SHOW ME THE C-CDA, with all required data elements populated via workflow in the UI, not via some developer on the back-end in a carefully-orchestrated test patient demo script.
6. Require vendor products adhere to an SLA for max number of clicks required to execute the task. It is not Meaningful Use if it’s prohibitively challenging to access and use in a clinical setting.

Finally, CMS could redefine the incentive program parameters to include scenarios like mine. Despite the heroic efforts being made across the enterprise, this IDN is not likely to make it, with the fault squarely on the CEHRT vendors’ inability to deliver fully-functional products in a timely manner with skilled resources available to support the installation, configuration, and deployment. Morale will significantly decline, next year’s budget will be short the $MM that was slated for further health IT improvements, and the likelihood that it will continue with Stage 3 becomes negligible. Vendor lawsuits may ensue, and the incentive dollar targets may be recouped, but the cost incurred by the organization, its clinicians, and its patients is irrecoverable.

Consider applying the hardship exemption deadline extension to the incentive program participants.

You might be an #HITNerd If…

Posted on March 2, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

You might be an #HITNerd If…

you use the term Direct Message as a double entendre.

Find all our #HITNerd references on: EMR and EHR & EMR and HIPAA.

NEW: Check out the #HITNerd store to purchase an #HITNerd t-shirt of cell phone case.

Note: Much like Jeff Foxworthy is a redneck. I’m well aware that I’m an #HITNerd.

Six 2014 Healthcare IT, EMR, and HIPAA Predictions

Posted on January 2, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Let’s take a bold, but realistic look at what we can expect in 2014 when it comes to healthcare IT, EMR and HIPAA. It will be fun to look back at the end of 2014 to see if I’m right. Hopefully you’ll add your 2014 predictions in the comments.

HIPAA Omnibus Poster Children – In 2014, I think we’re going to see a few companies have major issues with HIPAA Omnibus. Those examples will be widely reported and be the “poster children” for violating HIPAA Omnibus. I’ll go further in my prediction to say that a couple of them will be companies who are business associates who didn’t comply with HIPAA. In fact, I won’t be surprised if one of those poster children isn’t a really large corporation who didn’t realize that they were a business associate and required to comply with HIPAA. Plus, we’re going to see some major HIPAA violation related to SMS messages.

Direct Project Takes Off – With many getting set for meaningful use stage 2, watch for 2014 to be the breakout year for Direct Project. Direct project won’t surpass the fax machine for sharing medical records in healthcare, but many doctors will start asking for someone’s direct address as opposed to fax number. Doctors will finally start being able to know the answer to that question.

EHR Adoption Increases – Meaningful Use Participation Falls Off a Cliff (ambulatory, not acute) – This seems to be a contradiction, but I know many doctors who happily use an EHR and have no desire to touch meaningful use with a long stick. As the meaningful use money goes down and the requirements ramp up, many doctors are going to eschew meaningful use, but continue meaningfully using their EHR the way they think is right. EHR is here to stay, but meaningful use is going to take a big hit.

Wearable Tech Finds Its Place in Hospitals – In 2014, Google Glass will finally be put out as an official product. I believe it will be considered a failure as a consumer product in 2014 (give it until 2016 to be a great consumer device), but it will find some amazing uses in healthcare. Kyle Samani talks about some of his thoughts in this video, but I think we’ll discover many more. A PA and dentist friend of mine were some of the most interesting demos I’ve done with Google Glass. Of course, other competitors to Google Glass will come out as well. It will be fun to see which one of those wins.

ICD-10 Will Drive Many Organizations Towards Bankruptcy – Many underestimate the impact that ICD-10 will have on organizations. If it doesn’t send many to bankruptcy it will certainly cause cash flow issues for many. This is going to happen and many organizations are planning for it. We’ll see how well they prepare. Overpriced EHR software won’t be helping those that head towards bankruptcy either. Combine the two forces and some organizations are going to suffer this year.

EHR Vendors Will Start Dropping Like Flies – As I’ve said many times before, we won’t see the EHR consolidation that many are talking about (ie. 5 EHR vendors). However, we will start to see major EHR vendor fall out in 2014. Most of the press releases will spin it as a win for the company and the end users, but there are going to be a lot of unhappy EHR users when these companies start folding up shop through acquisition or otherwise.

Most Promising Health Data Exchange Project: Direct Project

Posted on August 7, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The most promising healthcare data exchange I see coming is the Direct Project. Sure, it’s not the nirvana of health information exchange, but it’s a really reasonable step in the right direction. Plus, it’s something that’s feasible and achievable.

Aaron Stranahan wrote a great post on the ICA HITme blog which talks about a key characteristic of the Direct Project.

Earlier I mentioned that whitelists were only half the story. Rather than create a whitelist as a list of addresses, Direct focuses on which third parties (or CA’s) an organization trusts to vouch for addresses. In this way, a “circle of trust” can be created without the administrative overhead of listing out every address unless an organization really wants to. Instead, each organization exchanging Direct messages can decide for itself with which entities, and by extension the processes they represent, they’ll interact.

As you may have guessed, building a whitelist of CA’s involves key exchange. In this case, your Direct service provider, aka “HISP,” will collect the public key, for whichever third parties you trust, to sign off on messages you will receive. In the world of Direct, these public keys are called “Trust Anchors” as a nod to the idea of the circle of trust these third parties represent.

So, that’s it- Direct is about whitelists, but with a twist that simultaneously reduces administrative burden and ensures that messages are encrypted following best practices. It’s a whitelist on steroids! Next time someone asks why they can’t send a Direct “email” message to their gmail account you’ll know it’s because gmail isn’t in your organization’s circle of trust.

One of the biggest challenges to any HIE program is knowing who everyone is and in whom you trust. I love the way Direct Project is approaching this “Trust Circle.” It’s reasonable and is a major reason why I believe that Direct Project will be a major success. I’ll be glad once every EHR vendor supports the Direct Project.

ONC is More Focused on HIE than EMR

Posted on July 3, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I can’t remember where I heard or read this, but I remember that when I did it stuck with me and I knew I had to write about it. Here’s the comment someone made (sorry I can’t attribute it properly):

Frankly, ONC is more focused on info exchange than EMR in the long run.

That’s a pretty strong statement, and one I really can’t argue against. In fact, if ONC didn’t have $36 billion out there hanging on the terms meaningful use of a certified EHR, they’d probably be doing even more with HIE and less with EHR.

I think ONC should actually be applauded for many of the health information exchange initiatives that it’s been pushing forward. I think that the Direct Project (which I broadly include in health information exchange) is one of the most exciting things in healthcare exchange right now and ONC should take a lot of credit for making it happen. I’m still waiting for my friends who happen to be physicians to talk to me about using direct project. Then, I’ll know it’s really gone mainstream, but I think it shows such promise that one day they will be telling me about it.

Yes, as most of you know, I still somewhat begrudgingly wish that the EHR incentive money would have gone towards exchange of healthcare information instead of EHR. It would have incentivized something that doesn’t have natural physician incentives to adopt. Plus, an EHR would have been essential to really exchanging information if the “healthcare data exchange stimulus” money was executed properly. Then, market dynamics would determine EHR adoption to a much larger extent. Water under a bridge it seems, but maybe someone at ONC could scrape some money together to prove me wrong.

With all of that said, I think ONC wants the healthcare information flowing. They see EHR as a step towards that end, but that’s the end goal. We’ll just see if they have the tools and resources needed to see it through a midst all the other healthcare IT distractions.

HIE, RHIO, and Direct Project on Google Plus

Posted on February 9, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The past couple days, a deep and thoughtful conversation has been happening on Google Plus around the idea of HIE, RHIO and the Direct Project. As of this posting, the G+ discussion has generated 80 comments from a broad spectrum of people. If you’re interested in HIE, RHIO, Direct Project or any related healthcare data exchange you’ll want to go read the entire thread.

I’ll just bring out a comment made today by David C. Kibbe that I believe does a pretty good job summarizing a good portion of the conversation. Plus, I think he does a good job describing the various methods of healthcare data exchange. I look forward to hearing from readers about Kibbe’s comments and the other comments in the thread which stand out for others.

Without further ado….David C. Kibbe’s comments:

After re-reading many of these comments, I feel compelled to attempt a few generalizations that (I hope) are based on some observations from the real world of patients, doctors, and hospitals.

First, the majority of health care in the majority of communities in this country is highly fragmented. Sometimes that fragmentation takes the shape of two or three large systems competing with one another. More often there are dozens of small, independent practices of different kinds arrayed near one or more hospitals.

Ownership of these practices, imaging centers, outpatient centers, etc. is in fairly constant transition, with perhaps a slight trend overall towards consolidation. But, in general, most of these communities will face diversity and multiple ownership, and therefore significant fragmentation that is both physical and reflected in information technology systems.

For the patient, this reality is epitomized by having to fill out similar, redundant insurance and medical history forms for each provider visited in the community. Yes, there are exceptions where a particular health care provider is very dominant, and where the “system knows me” wherever I go as a patient. But that is still not the norm, and even those highly integrated systems have their boundaries outside of which communications devolve to paper, mail, telephone, and fax.

As a generalization, there have been two health IT strategies that have dominated the discussion of how to de-fragment community health care systems. One is some version of the community health information network, CHIN. RHIOs, HIEs, and so on. This model seeks to aggregate data from multiple provider enterprises, organize it, and make it available to members. The other is the mega-EHR, which, it is assumed by proponents, will extend its tentacles out into a critical mass of providers, usually from a hospital or group of hospitals, and therefore connect everyone.

The US is a large enough society that it can accommodate both of these “solutions” to the problems inherent in diversity and fragmentation in health care resources. Both of these models are likely to persist well in to the future.

However, what we are now seeing gain some popularity and mindshare is a third model for information and data de-fragmentation in health care, one that is based upon the standards, protocols, and specifications of the Internet, the web, and a network-of-networks architecture. Unlike the other two models, this new model does not require a controlling and centralized (and probably “rent-seeking”) intermediary on the network. This new model, like the Internet, is relatively neutral with respect to operating systems and pre-existing applications. Directed exchange, essentially secure e-mail mediated by a federated trust framework using PKI for point-to-point “push” communications between known participants, is an example of this third model reaching operational status.

To a great many technologists and others involved in health care IT, instances of the new model — let’s call it the Health Internet just to have a name — seems overly simple, even toylike or retrograde, and hardly robust by engineering or health informatics standards. “Why would you want secure e-mail?” I hear every day from health IT experts. “It seems almost stupidly limited and under-powered given the complexity of health care!”

The answer to that kind of question is “Yes, you’re right, Directed exchange, for example, is not very complicated or robust compared to an HIE or an EPIC install. But it might be incredibly low-cost to use and fast-and-easy to deploy; it doesn’t require sophisticated expertise by users, and quite the contrary looks and feels like familiar software, e.g. gmail; and for a whole lot of people who are part of fragmented health care systems it may be “good enough” and their only real alternative for secure health data exchange and connectivity.”

The Health Internet isn’t a substitute for HIEs or for enterprise EHRs. Directed exchange is a “good enough,” better-than-fax solution for the enormous volumes of health information moving across geographical boundaries, outside of EHRs or billing systems. It’s uses will be at the bottom of the health data food chain, the least sexy but still critical exchanges that move data across practices and between hospitals and doctors via fax because they can’t get there any other way cheaply and with minimal technical complexity.

At least that’s the idea….If I were Epic, or the health plans, or a leader of an HIE, I’d embrace the Health Internet for the innovation and efficiency it can offer that part of the health care market that can’t afford your more sophisticated and expensive products. And, in the process, find very large numbers of new customers. Won’t a lot of those be patients and consumers?