What’s Next in Health Information Exchange (HIE)?

Posted on September 21, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

There seem to be three big acronyms when it comes to healthcare IT and interoperability – EMR (electronic medical record), HIE (health information exchange) and ACO (accountable care organization). Implementing one does not always necessarily lead to the implementation of another. I’m sure everyone will agree, however, that an EMR most likely leads to connectivity to a HIE, which increases the likelihood of participating in an ACO or coordinated care program. I consider these technologies and concepts to be the interoperability triumvirate, if you will.

Of these three, the HIE seems to have seen its day in the sun. Enthusiasm for the concept and its surrounding technologies – at a fever pitch at tradeshows and in the media last year, in my opinion – seems to have been eclipsed by Meaningful Use incentive payments for EMRs and the general consternation related to ACOs. Which is why my interest was piqued when I came across news from a company called NexJ and its new Health Exchange solution.

In order to learn more about the product, touted by the company as one that “brings together the numerous electronic health records systems and applications that exist within healthcare organizations – many of them old, out-dated legacy systems – into one place so that healthcare providers can deliver better, safer, more comprehensive care,” I reached out to Oz Huner, Vice President of Health Solutions at NexJ Systems.

JD: What type of healthcare facility would be the typical customer for your new HIE solution?
OH: “The NexJ Health Exchange solution facilitates the sharing of patient information between healthcare organizations such as hospitals and healthcare providers, ACOs, HIEs, and public health and government agencies.

“Our customers are choosing our solution because it enables them to move from paper-based workflows to electronic workflows and gain such benefits as complete access to accurate information, improved quality of care and patient empowerment.”

Can you give me a specific example of how this HIE can potentially (or has already) improve patient outcomes at a client facility?
“In a current project we’re working on, NexJ is helping meet the challenges emergency department physicians and staff face by providing timely access to the patients’ primary care provider records when they arrive at the hospital admitting department. The NexJ Health Exchange solution connects the patient’s medical record directly with the emergency department systems, improving information sharing between community health providers and the hospital, and improving patient safety.”

Is there a limit to the number of EMRs and applications that can be connected within the NexJ health exchange?
“No, there is no limit to the number of EMRs and applications that can be connected using NexJ Health Exchange. It is highly scalable and can address the needs of the even largest healthcare organizations.”

Does it work with some EMRs better than others?
“No. NexJ Health Exchange provides open, standards-based integration to any EMR system. Its secure, Web-based portal and flexible architecture enables connectivity with legacy and proprietary systems, support for global messaging standards (HL7v2.x and HL7v3.x), exchanging of clinical document formats (CCR and CCD), and support for multiple standardized clinical terminologies (SNOMED, LOINC).

Based on your interactions with providers, do you feel that more and more are finally coming around to the idea of adopting EMRs and eventually HIEs? Or do you find that many providers still think they aren’t worth the expense?
“It is our opinion that EMRs have historically been of great value to healthcare organizations, but since they’re often siloed, such information technology has not been ubiquitously adopted. As an element of a HIE, however, we believe there will be greater EMR adoption as government incentives and programs encourage healthcare providers across the country make the switch to EMRs. As more physicians move to EMRs and become net receivers of patient information, they will realize the benefits of access to accurate information, improved quality of care and patient empowerment.”

Are you working with any regional extension centers around the country to promote your EMR and HIE solutions?
“Indirectly, yes. Through our partnership with Open Health Tools, NexJ is a member of the Platform Implementation Project (PIP), which is working on an open HIE solution for state agencies. The focus is currently on southeast Texas, but is by no means limited to that region.”

NexJ will be at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco next week. If you plan on going, stop by their booth and let me and your fellow readers know what you think about this new health exchange solution. Is HIE the buzzword worth bringing back?