How to avoid roadblocks to successful HIE

Effective integration with a health information exchange isn't easy, but there are ways to shorten the roadblocks and develop a comprehensive HIE strategy.

Sean Kennedy, director of health information exchange at the Massachusetts eHealth Institute and Nicole Heim, CIO Milford (Mass.) Regional Medical Center (MRMC), speaking Wednesday at the Healthcare Business Intelligence Forum in Washington, D.C., shared their experiences with HIE integration.

In a state with 4,500 care delivery organizations, 27,000 physicians and 6.5 million citizens, the Massachusetts eHealth Institute is responsible for the adoption of health IT in the state. This year, this state is in phase 2 of implementation--aiming for enabling of query-based exchange, development of registries and patient-directed exchange.

"It needs to be seamless for the HIE to be effective," Kennedy said. "[Electronic medical records] vendors are certified, but when they come in to practice, it's hard to get connected. We want to keep the cost of joining the highway low."

Heim said one of MRMC's main issues with the HIE is that discharge summaries don't stay with the patient in a way that ensures each caregiver will have the most up-to-date information on the patient.

Her key takeaways from the project so far include:

  • Use standards
  • Engage clinical and business leaders early, because this has a serious impact on workflow
  • Identify a use case to make it realistic
  • Consent matters take time, and having a test network is important
  • Don't forget to be open to shifting gears and innovating

Heim said more challenges include data repositories and other databases.

"We have islands of data and reports and we have to decide what to do with it," she said.

Kennedy added that it's about staffing, too.

"Part of sustainability [for the HIE] is investing in the right people so they can go forward ... future leaders that can advocate for us, speak positively about it," he said.