Working through the development of HIEs

Jim Tate, Meaningful Use Expert

Progress of HIEs

Last week I attended the annual conference of the North Carolina Healthcare Information & Communications Alliance, Inc. (NCHICA) in Asheville, NC. NCHICA is a “nonprofit consortium of over 240 organizations representing the many sectors of the healthcare industry” with a mission to assist “in accelerating the transformation of the U.S. healthcare system through the effective use of information technology, informatics and analytics”.

This was a great opportunity to see where the rubber meets the road. No theories, no ivory towers. It was a robust cross section of medical practices, hospitals, consultants, payors, and all the other stakeholders who actually have to make the next five years of HIT adoption and EHR rollout actually work. Lots of talk about medical homes, meaningful use, and EHR adoption. I was glad to see to see the growing focus on HIEs.

I find myself thinking about HIEs a lot these days. We know they are coming. In fact they are starting to emerge from their cocoons and are being nourished by Federal dollars. They are still a work in progress and we really don’t know how they will ultimately manifest but we need them and providers will have to use them no matter what. Incentives and penalties will guarantee their use. There is so much to be worked out on a regional and national level. What about patient consent? What about state to state connectivity? Who will be the HIE service providers? Is somebody going to make a ton of money? This is like the early 1950’s when the Interstate Highway System was being planned. Talk about issues to resolved! Somehow it all got worked out and we can now drive from Miami to Seattle without any traffic lights.

One day we will look back at the HIEs and wonder how everything got worked out. The answer is that there are numerous organizations like the NCHICA who are bringing the right people together at the right time to talk about the right things. A pyramid is being built and my hat is off to the all the organizations who are putting their shoulders to the wheel and helping move those big stones across the sand. Our children will thank you.

Jim Tate is a nationally recognized expert on the CMS EHR Incentive Program, certified technology and meaningful use and author of The Incentive Roadmap® The Meaningful Use of Certified Technology: Stage 1.