Health Information Sharing Deal Announced

The health information world in California is getting more connected. Many large and small HIE networks have signed an agreement to share information, state officials announced last week at the annual HIE Summit in Sacramento.

“We have been working with the leadership of HIE around California to help them establish self-governance of exchanges across the state,” said Pamela Lane, deputy secretary of health information exchange for the state’s Health and Human Services agency.

Lane said there has been an information-sharing gap between the large HIE systems — such as Kaiser, the Veterans Administration and Sutter Health — and the smaller, community HIE systems. Getting those disparate groups to agree to share information has been difficult, she said.

That now has changed, Lane said.

“I didn’t know how we were going to do this,” Lane said, “but they met, they set up a vision and they were off and running.”

A large group of HIE networks have signed an agreement to work out the sharing of data, she said. “This is exactly what the feds are looking for in health care reform,” Lane said, “and it is exactly what California needs.”

For instance, if a VA patient goes on vacation and has an accident and ends up in the emergency department out of the VA network, providers would be able to access critical health information to treat that patient properly.

A big motivator behind making the move, Lane said, is that health networks in California are shifting to systems that track quality and outcomes and emphasize coordination of care. To do that properly, information needs to move and can’t be kept in siloes, she said.  

“I think now we’ll see a huge ramp-up up in HIE activity, particularly in communities that are in the design process, like the San Joaquin Valley area,” Lane said. “I think we’re going to see huge advancements in the next six months. I can firmly say, if communities have already started the process, this will be able to move them very quickly to HIE. I think we’re going to have the entire state on board by the end of the year.”

Some HIE networks, particularly in urban areas, already signed agreements to talk to each other, Lane said. But agreements signed last week set a precedent for larger “enterprise” networks agreeing to share with each other and with smaller networks, Land said.

“Once the ripple starts, it goes pretty quickly. The stone has been thrown, and the ripples are occurring. The future of health care is managing transitions of care… and to do that, you have to communicate, whether it’s within your system or not,” Lane said.

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