News Feature | August 20, 2014

HIE Extending To Skilled Nursing Facilities

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Physician-Led HIE

CMS issues a final rule aimed at accelerating HIE connectivity in skilled nursing facilities.

As the CMS issues a final rule setting 2015 payment rates for skilled nursing facilities and the federal government reiterates a commitment to accelerate SNF use of health information exchange technology, the North Carolina Health Information Exchange (NC HIE) has announced a partnership with Liberty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Services to provide HIE connectivity for Liberty’s 21 skilled nursing facilities across North Carolina.

With the new rule, CMS pledges to continue to consider a number of incentives to support SNF exchange of data with other provider organizations. These include encouraging health information technology and HIE adoption through Medicare and Medicaid SNF payment policies, adopting common standards and certification requirements for interoperable HIE, improving privacy and security “across all HIE-focused initiatives,” and developing governance of health information networks.

Piloted at the Liberty Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center of Halifax County in Weldon at the end of June, the NC HIE will continue to launch connectivity for the remaining skilled nursing facilities in the coming months through this collaboration.

The goal of the partnership is to establish connectivity between NC HIE and Liberty Healthcare’s electronic health record system, called PointClickCare. The skilled nursing facilities will also be provided with direct secure email, have access to chronic disease registries, and be able to submit data to the NC Immunization Registry and other public health surveillance systems in order to better manage population health.

NC HIE connects almost 800 sites, including hospitals, ambulatory practices, clinics, local health departments, and skilled nursing and home health providers.

On its web site, NC HIE gives a use case example of a patient going through an initial nursing assessment at a skilled nursing facility (SNF) following a hip fracture. During the assessment the patient complains of weakness and is noted to be increasingly short of breath and the condition rapidly worsens. The nursing facility staff members log on to the NC HIE Clinical Portal and find that the patient is allergic to the antibiotic taken before transfer from the hospital to the SNF. The patient is sent back to the emergency department for immediate care. The connection to NC HIE made prompt treatment and diagnosis possible.

“As provider diversity among NC HIE participants increases, the benefits that both providers and patients experience will multiply," said NC HIE President Chris Scarboro in a prepared statement. “This is especially true of providers that serve the aged and disabled populations, where care coordination is critical to avoiding medical errors and unnecessary hospital readmissions.”