News Feature | May 12, 2015

Some Providers Overcome Information Blocking

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

CMS Releases Quality Data To Help Patients Choose Providers

Care integration programs achieve successful electronic record sharing.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, according to a report to Congress, asserts “information blocking” is an impediment to information sharing which will likely become more pronounced as HIT expectations and technological capabilities continue to evolve and mature. The report further notes “it is apparent that some healthcare providers and health IT developers are knowingly interfering with the exchange or use of electronic health information in ways that limit its availability and use to improve health and healthcare.”

There are, however, success stories involving hospitals and other major providers sharing information and overcoming interoperability barriers. Among these is Henderson Behavioral in Florida, which has been sharing protected patient data with Memorial Healthcare System despite the fact they use different solutions. And in Oregon, LifeWorks NW (a behavioral health provider) has begun engaging in similar sharing with Virginia Garcia Memorial Hospital.

As Kevin Patrick Allen, spokesman for Netsmart told Health IT Outcomes in an email, “These type efforts are seen as ‘pie in the sky’ by some people, but it’s actually a growing reality elsewhere.”

In the case of Henderson Behavioral and Memorial Healthcare System, the two providers realized true care integration where “treating the whole person” is no longer just hyperbole, according to a press release. “Physical health and mental health emergencies typically require different treatments but the care needs to be communicated across providers to accomplish the ultimate goal of improving outcomes,” explained Tammy Tucker, Associate Administrator of Memorial Healthcare. “Our emergency department staff is now transmitting data directly to Henderson so patients obtain coordinated and integrated medical and behavioral health services.”

This interoperability is achieved even though Memorial Hospital uses Epic EHR and Henderson Behavioral a Netsmart CareRecord EHR. The exchange is made possible by Netsmart’s Care Connect care coordination solution, and referrals include key data necessary for the Henderson team to provide comprehensive care as soon as the patient is transported.

A similar exchange is in place between by LifeWorks NW (which uses Netsmart CareRecord) and the Epic EHR used by Virginia Garcia. “This initiative will allow clinicians on both sides – primary care and behavioral health – to deliver more informed care based on a more complete picture of clients,” LifeWorks NW President and CEO, Mary Monnat said.

“This is a proof point that through the committed partnership of healthcare providers and healthcare IT suppliers we can move beyond the idea of just sharing data to enabling integrated care processes to drive improved outcomes,” Netsmart Chief Executive Officer Mike Valentine explained in a press release. “For us, the goal is to treat the mind and the body and enable recovery at a reduced cost.”

And Carl Dvorak, president, Epic, concurs, saying, “Our goals are the same … to improve care, safety and efficiency by connecting the physical and mental health worlds. Recognizing that, it was just a matter of rolling up our sleeves and making it happen. Time savings and elimination of redundancies are already being realized. Referrals are being received electronically and the quality of the data has improved.”