How streamlined data exchange in Michigan provided a boost to population health

Computers connecting
Shreya Patel and Brandon Elliot described how a Michigan system has benefitted patients, providers and the population as a whole. (Getty/TCmake_photo)

The road to national healthcare interoperability is long. While the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT finalizes the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, some states are venturing out on their own.

Case in point: Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN), a public and private nonprofit organization that smoothly relays health information between providers, plans, government agencies and health information exchanges.

MiHIN makes this possible by having providers sign two legal agreements. In addition to a data sharing agreement, they sign a “master use case” agreement, which allows them to transfer information an unlimited number of times.

It may sound simple, but it contrasts starkly with what had to be done pre-MiHIN.

"If you wanted to send health information to another physician, maybe someone’s family member, maybe to another provider—whatever it was, it would require you sending that information on a one-by-one basis," said Shreya Patel, a policy analyst with MiHIN, at the Public Health Law Conference on Saturday. "It resulted in a lot of chaos."

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By making it easier to exchange data, MiHIN benefits not only individual patients and providers, but the population as a whole, said Brandon Elliot, M.D., also with MiHIN. 

For example, MiHIN sends vaccination information to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR), a statewide database of immunization records. As a result, MCIR’s information is up to date and easy to access, so providers can check a patient’s record during a visit to make sure that person has received all necessary vaccinations.

A lot of resources have gone toward implementing these systems, but it’s paid off, according to Elliot. By reducing the rate of vaccine-preventable diseases, quality metrics have improved and providers have also fared well in meeting CMS' Meaningful Use (now Promoting Interoperability) requirements.

And the broader potential is even more profound. 

“For every one dollar spent on a childhood vaccine, the country saves $10 by averting treatment costs," Elliot said. "For each birth cohort immunized, 42,000 deaths and 20 million illnesses are prevented, which results in $69 billion dollars in savings."