In a joint announcement issued today, HealthlinkNY and HealtheConnections, two Qualified Entities (QEs) operating Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) that together cover 43% of New York State, said they have formed a strategic partnership to accelerate HIE use by providers.As a team, the two QEs will connect providers across much of New York State, from the northern border of New York City, through the Hudson Valley, and throughout the Southern Tier and Central New York to the Canadian border. The partnership is the result of months of collaboration following HealthlinkNY’s decision to seek a strategic partner in 2017.
Staci Romeo, Executive Director of HealthlinkNY, said she chose HealtheConnections because their technological platform is exceptional, and the quality of services and customer engagement processes completely align with HealthlinkNY’s mission and values. “HealtheConnections has proven technology and associated services that create value for providers. We’re thinking progressively and looking to offer resources such as tools to measure quality and support value-based care systems,” she explained. “We want a partner with innovative services and an unwavering commitment to providing value to providers by enabling them to improve care and efficiency, as well as save time and money.”
Rob Hack, President and CEO of HealtheConnections, said the strategic partnership was inspired, in part, by a statewide effort to optimize costs and efficiencies to increase use and adoption of regional HIEs and the network that connects them all—the SHIN-NY, or the Statewide Health Information Network of New York. “HealtheConnections and HealthlinkNY have a shared vision of using health data to create healthier communities, improve healthcare delivery, and deliver value to providers. This type of progress can only be achieved through enhanced collaboration and looking beyond the status quo.,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do here—accelerate the great work that hasalready begun. The HIE works to its fullest potential when all parties, providers and HIEs alike, work together toward the common goal.”
Together, HealthlinkNY and HealtheConnections will operate a service area that covers 24 counties, more than one-third of the 62 counties in New York State, and connect all of the region’s 66 hospitals, which comprise 27% of all hospitals in New York State. To ensure every one of their participants can make the most of what the HIE has to offer, the organizations will place heavy emphasis on customer engagement outreach, training and support resources.
Providers See a ‘Complete Picture’ of Their Patients
HIEs allow different healthcare providers that care for the same patient to “talk” to each other by sharing their patient data so they can see the “complete picture” of their patient. When hospitals, medical practices, laboratories, and many other healthcare providers access patient medical histories in the HIE, they can work more efficiently, make more informed diagnoses, and avoid repeating tests. Furthermore, HIE use is associated with reduced hospital stays and risk of preventable hospital readmissions, two significant drivers of healthcare costs.
Both HealthlinkNY and HealtheConnections are considered regional healthcare improvement catalysts because, not only do they allow providers to share medical records with each other, they also administer collaborative population health improvement initiatives in their regions; they are the only HIEs in New York State that administer Population Health Improvement Program (PHIP) grants.
Currently, HealthlinkNY’s HIE stretches across 13 counties, and its population health arm manages the Southern Tier Regional Addiction Resource Center. The HealthlinkNY Community Network works with partners on many additional population health efforts in 14 counties in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Southern Tier of New York. HealtheConnections has a strong regional presence in 11 counties in the Central and Northern New York regions, where 80% of physicians actively use its HIE, and 75% of providers contribute data. Like HealthlinkNY, HealtheConnections’ population health improvement team engages with a diverse group of community stakeholders to advance a wide range of public health interests
A Feature-Rich Technology Platform
Romeo said that HealthlinkNY will begin to migrate its current HIE interface to HealtheConnections’ platform in early 2019. With the new platform, users will be able to further filter data, set up advanced alerts and results routing, and have access to more databases, including the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIS), Veteran’s Administration (VA), and Department of Defense (DOD). Other enhancements include fully integrated analytics and reporting value-based payment support and advisory services; quality measurements; and clinical dashboards that provide usable data to identify gaps in care. Medical records for minors from birth to 18 are available to authorized users once they have consent.
“The user experience is key,” Romeo said of the technology and services. “Both HealthlinkNY and HealtheConnections are coming from a place where we put providers first, and that includes offering providers a nimble and intuitive platform and services that support the way they deliver care and help their organizations save time and money.”
Romeo pointed out an additional benefit to providers: Both HealthlinkNY and HealtheConnections have built “hub” connections to widely-used electronic health records (EHR) systems. That means they can quickly connect providers who use those EHRs to the HIE because there is not a need to build a custom interface. HealthlinkNY has 21 hubs. and HealtheConnections has 12 hubs. Because of the partnership, providers will have access to 50 different hub and custom connection options.
The strategic partnership yields benefits beyond enhanced technology. The breadth and depth of records available in a combined HIE will increase data exponentially, thus increasing the HIE’s utility. HIE data offers great potential to support health system changes and prevention agenda priorities for the public benefit. It also introduces opportunities to share best practices and build on synergies in critical population health efforts.
Hack called the partnership “a game-changer” because together the two entities will be able to accelerate new participant growth, data contributions, development of new analytics, and community health improvement results. “The idea,” said Hack, “is to transform and improve patient care, improve the health of our population, and lower health care costs. Together, we will have a tremendous impact on the health of residents of New York State.”