7 Steps to a Successful HIE Integration

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Thursday, 26 February 2015 18:16

As a healthcare facility, you have some choices when it comes to integrating with a public or private healthcare information exchange (HIE). But how do you evaluate your options and make a decision on what type of HIE in which to connect? Once you’re ready to move forward and connect to an HIE, it’s important to understand what the project will entail, and how you can ensure a successful integration. At CoreTech, we have helped institutions connect to both public and private HIEs for the first time. Our experience in healthcare technology can help you determine your readiness, find the right HIE solution for you, and develop the right tools to integrate with an HIE successfully.

Steps to integration with a Healthcare Information Exchange
While every HIE integration is different, here are the typical steps we follow with clients who are looking to integrate with a HIE:

  1. Determining Goals: Our first step involves looking at your current situation and asking you some questions to help you determine your goals for integration. For example, are you connected to an exchange already? Do you need to utilize the HIE as a transition of care? Is one of your goals to receive financial incentives for achieving “meaningful use” under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR incentive program? If so, you’ll want to determine which goals are mandated by meaningful use and physician quality data programs related to quality of care. What ways would you like to communicate within your organization and beyond your own healthcare IT network? Answering some of these questions can help provide a clearer picture or vision of what your single, integrated HIE system will look like, and how data will flow within the system.

  2. Setting a Project Time Frame: Most HIE integrations average a few months in length, but the specific time frame for completion depends on what your institution or clinic is trying to accomplish. Available time and resources can also impact the project timeline. Because integration into a HIE involves your entire organization, from your executive team to your administrative and IT departments, these individuals must be able to devote at least some time to the project. We’ll also take into account your budget and existing resources to determine a realistic time frame for your HIE integration project.

  3. Discovery/Assessment Phase: After reviewing your goals and potential timeline, we’ll next look at what existing technology will need to integrate with the HIE, including any current electronic health record (EHR) systems you have in place. This may also include other internal or external resources, such as software applications, computer systems, vendors and anything else that pertains to your IT infrastructure. We will also look at your entire team and daily workflow. This is needed to determine how each employee will work together, how the implementation will impact daily responsibilities and the project timeline, and what additional resources may be needed for the transition. During this process, we’ll document the various ways that healthcare data moves in and out of your practice behind the scenes in order to identify inefficiencies, improve processes and determine how implementing the HIE might impact them. This includes the secure push and pull of patient records and the methods of information exchange (manual and electronic). We will also consider security and privacy issues for the information you plan to share on the exchange, including federal HIPAA privacy and security regulations, as well as state privacy and consent laws.

  4. Development of an Integration Road Map: Once we have determined your goals, timeline and assessment, it’s time to develop a guide for integration to your new HIE. This will include new infrastructure or technology upgrades necessary to implement prior to the integration, including an electronic patient system, or electronic medical record system. The road map will include step-by-step processes for gradual integration with the new HIE system, as well as technology needed, timelines and involved parties.

  5. Testing and Implementation Phase: During the final testing and implementation phases, we ensure that all necessary technology and resources have been installed and are working properly. This testing and go-live plan occurs prior to the full implementation in order to make any adjustments and address any concerns that may arise during the testing phase. This could include any custom development needed to build interface connection from the previous system to the new system.

  6. Rollout and User Training: Once the system has been tested internally and is working properly, we also begin the process of training your team (usually a mix of administrative and clinical staff) to use the new system and understand how to incorporate it into their new workflow. This will also help your staff realize the benefits of using the system. Beyond simply training new users, we will also conduct user acceptance testing to determine whether information from your source system is sending, receiving and displaying accurately and in the right format on the receiving end (other vendors and institutions).

  7. Go Live, Support and Maintenance: Once the HIE is ready to go live, your HIE support team will be there to ensure adequate support and ongoing training of staff, if needed. Post-integration, there will also likely be ongoing improvements and enhancements needed based on your established set of priorities.

Enjoying the Benefits of your new HIE Integration
Once you have integrated with your new HIE system, it’s time to start measuring the impact of the HIE integration and its effectiveness in your practice and workflow. While the time and cost involved to integrate to an HIE is great, the benefit of improving patient care while streamlining your entire operation is well worth the long-term investment. Having an experienced implementer by your side who knows the ins and outs of your new HIE system may make the integration process more efficient and worthwhile.