A couple of years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to serve on the local Wichita Health Information Exchange Board and the Kansas Electronic Health Advisory Council at the state level. Those opportunities coupled with a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to review how the state immunization registry would work with the health information exchange (HIE), thrust me into the unknown world of health information technology (HIT) and HIE.
My observation during this period of learning is that connecting to the HIE is not on the radar of many local health departments. Leadership is needed at state, local and regional levels and if you’re not sure how to get started, I’d suggest beginning with the questions below.
1) Is connecting to the HIE part of my Health Department’s strategic plan?
All local health departments are responsible for monitoring communicable diseases and protecting the community from health threats. At the very least, exchanging data with community health partners about clients with reportable diseases is a reason to participate in the system.
2) Is my Health Department at the HIE table?
You can start by checking with your state health department for information about the state HIE board. Find out which Regional Extension Center serves your jurisdiction. Check with your State Association of County and City Health Officials for an HIE committee or workgroup. Check with your local and state medical societies to identify where leadership is coming from. Ask if you can participate on some level, perhaps through a committee or representing local health departments on a board.
3) Has my Health Department figured out what is needed from the HIE and how to get it?
In Kansas, an HIE Committee has been formed through the Kansas Association of Local Health Departments. The local health department representative on the State HIE Board and I chair this committee. We have focused on education and awareness of new developments in the state until recently. At our last meeting we decided to engage a consultant who could assist us with the process of answering the following questions:
What do you need information for?
- Analysis and investigation
- Case management
- Care coordination
What are short, intermediate and long-term needs?
How often and when is the information desired?
Individual client vs. aggregate level de-identified? Geo-coded?
What kind of information might be available from the HIE?
What is the best way to have access to this information? Choices include through:
- Electronic Medical Record (EMR)
- Clinic management system
- Linked clinic management system and EMR
- Partially linked clinic management system and EMR with toggle
- Direct through HIE
- Intermediary like the state health department
What plans does the state health department have for maintaining or beginning a registry linkage to the HIE?
I urge you to get involved and utilize NACCHO’s resources to guide you through the health IT maze. Once the HIE is fully functional, LHDs will have a new opportunity to demonstrate value to the public health system. Now is the time to take a seat at the table.
Claudia Blackburn MPH, RNC, CPM
Health Director, Sedgwick County (KS)