COO of Maine Statewide HIE Says This Year is a Transitional One for the Industry

ShaunAlfreds-200At HIMSS17 in Orlando I had a chance to sit down with Shaun Alfreds, Chief Operating Officer of HealthInfoNet, Maine’s statewide Health Information Exchange.  The HIE, which went live in 2009, and, according to the organization’s website, now contains virtually all medical records for the state residents, along with the majority of healthcare facilities. Shaun discusses population health management as a key topic at the conference, as well as what’s new with HealthInfoNet, and his impressions of HIMSS.  We both agreed that the conversations we were hearing at this year’s conference were less about buying new technology and more about strategically optimizing technologies in place to further health information exchange at the provider level. You can listen to a podcast of the interview.

HIMSS17 Highlight – Shaun Alfreds

So what are your impressions and takeaways this year at HIMSS? Obviously Population Health is on everybody’s mind, as well as some other things. But Pop Health is certainly at or near the top of everyone’s list here.

Shaun Alfreds: I think you’re right. I think Population Health is really important. I think precision medicine is a term that I’m hearing a lot. We heard it in the keynote yesterday from IBM Watson’s CEO. And I see that even in our own business needs. When I’m talking to organizations, that’s the first thing that comes up.

So for our listeners and audience who may not be familiar with HealthInfoNet, talk to us a little bit about what it is you do.

Shaun Alfreds: Sure. HealthInfoNet operates and manages the statewide health information exchange in the state of Maine. We collect and aggregate data from 37 hospitals and about 550 ambulatory practices into a single patient health record and then we build precision analytics on top of that to support providers, care managers, Medicaid agency, and public health in making decisions.

This is where the Population Health management really comes into play, isn’t it?  And what is HealthInfoNet doing to expand pop health management?

Shaun Alfreds: Yes. So right now, we’re really focused on social determinants of health and broadening our perspective around the medical record to be more than just a medical record but more the record of services that a person delivers and how do we aggregate more data into our data set to help that person stay healthy.

And so you’re talking about a particular platform?

Shaun Alfreds: Yes. We’re working on expanding our platform, working with our vendor Orion Health to implement a new type of data system that allows us to process a lot more unstructured data but then use that in specific workflows targeted at the user.

And how does this benefit the provider?

Shaun Alfreds: Well, it benefits the provider in many ways. The first major benefit is getting the provider access to the right information at the right time, rather than this broad brush, “Here’s all the information on the patient.” It’s going to help us to really hone down so I can get the right information, just the information that’s needed for the provider in front of them at the right time.

It’s also going to allow us to bring more information to the table. So for example today, when you go to a hospital and the provider is looking up your medical record, all they’re seeing are the medical activities that’s happened within that hospital or health system or if they have access to HealthInfoNet, what’s happened in other hospitals or health systems.

What we’re doing is saying we’re going to bring in more information such as transportation and housing status, so that as the person is being discharged and the planners are working with a person leaving the hospital, they understand whether or not this person has stable housing or transportation to get away from the hospital and can coordinate with services, if they’re getting services, to help them better get home, take care of themselves, and stay well after their visit.

So HIMSS this year, I think we were talking a little bit before we started here. How do you think this HIMSS compares to, let’s say, last year or the year before? I mean, we’ve seen this all. We’ve moved out of this phase of adoption meaningful use incentive and now we really are into, “Okay, we’ve had years of plucking this data. What are we going to do with it? How are we going to get more exchange of information? How are we going to secure it?” Cyber security is obviously a big issue. And of course, Population Health and analytics. So that’s a lot.

Shaun Alfreds: It is a lot. What I see this year that’s different than previous years, in previous years there was so much money flowing to this industry from all the federal funds that were coming through the HITECH Act that there was a frenetic buying frenzy that was going on at HIMSS. And you saw it. The number of people that were coming to these events, the number of deals that were getting cut at these events was really high.

This year, we’re in a transition period. Whether that’s politically but it’s also in what we’re doing as a business. We’ve bought the electronic health records, so now it’s about optimizing them. So I’m seeing different people here. I’m seeing different conversations happening. And it’s more strategic, I think, than it is operational.