Buzzy topics included the immense impact of TEFCA and QHINs on interoperability, along with health equity, SDOH, and population health
At 2022’s annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), technology was the star of the show but people – patients and care providers in particular – always remained top of mind.
An estimated 25,000 professionals traveled to Orlando last week, exactly two years after the last-minute cancellation of the March 2020 conference due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. And with 200-plus thought leadership sessions and more than 700 companies exhibiting at the Orange County Convention Center, there was no shortage of bold perspectives and cutting-edge products and solutions.
Population health, social determinants of health (SDOH), and health equity were hot topics, and a focus of the opening keynote by HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf.
The COVID-19 global pandemic shined a harsh light on many inefficiencies in the healthcare system, as well as inequalities. "We simply can't afford to miss these lessons that we've learned,” Wolf said. “It's not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. You have to ask yourselves: What will you do to reimagine health? What will we do to reimagine health together?"
He also urged the industry to address systemic failures by paying more attention to SDOH, including socioeconomic status, education, and environmental factors. Health Gorilla recently announced a new partnership with Lexis Nexis to bring social determinants of health (SDOH) data to its interoperability platform.
"We know that these social determinants are also shaped by structural determinants, such as race and gender, class and other attributes that can create disadvantages that lend to the disparities we talk about," Wolf said. “[This is] a great global challenge, and an even greater global opportunity."
Opportunities for connection was also a recurring theme at HIMSS22, as Health Gorilla and others demonstrated patient-centric interoperability solutions.
Maylee Wu, Health Gorilla’s Vice President of Product Development, participated in the Nationwide Connected Care Interoperability Showcase along with CommonWell Health Alliance and participating vendors athenahealth, Cerner, eClinicalWorks, MatrixCare, and MEDITECH.
The showcase followed the healthcare journey of fictional patient “Oscar,” a traveling nurse from Buffalo, New York, who gets diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While working in Louisiana, Oscar comes down with a respiratory infection and pneumonia. Throughout his journey, his providers leverage auto-linking, event notifications, smart record locator services and discrete data exchange via HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) at a national scale to organize his care to inform better care decisions, decrease total cost of patient care, and avoid readmissions.
Working together, Oscar’s providers were able to coordinate his care across thousands of miles, different providers, venues of care, and health IT systems.
As part of the showcase, Health Gorilla conducted a pilot with CommonWell and MEDITECH to demonstrate FHIR resource data exchange.
“One of the most challenging parts of FHIR adoption at scale is the registration process. The trusted dynamic client registration transaction framework supported by CommonWell helps solve this problem,” Wu said. “We wanted to highlight FHIR resource data exchange at HIMSS because we’re excited about its broader adoption and how it will ultimately improve care for patients like Oscar.”
TEFCA and QHINs
Other hot topics at HIMSS22 included the recently released Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) version 1, which will enable the nationwide exchange of electronic health information (EHI) between health information networks(HINs) and establish universal interoperability standards across the country between health information networks. TEFCA will also establish our country's first Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs), the entities responsible for facilitating the national exchange of data. In 2021, Health Gorilla announced its intention to seek a QHIN designation and is prepared to facilitate exchanges for the six exchange purposes outlined in the TEFCA drafts.
During the plenary session “Driving a New Era of U.S. Interoperability with TEFCA,” panelists talked about the exciting new era of data sharing and the potential for individual access services (IAS), according to Healthcare IT News, a publication of HIMSS Media.
As outlined in the common agreement, IAS is defined as services that any QHIN, participant or sub-participant provide to an individual to satisfy their request for a copy of their information.
Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project, said an individual's gateway to participating in TEFCA would be to use an app or platform that connects to a QHIN. "That would give the individual, really, the same connectivity that exists today for healthcare providers and other actors," she said. The Sequoia Project is the recognized coordinating entity for TEFCA.
"What we're talking about is a one-stop shop to get all of your data in one place," said John Rancourt, director of the Interoperability Division at the ONC Office of Policy. "[That's] an enormous sea change for what could be possible for consumers.”
National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi said during a Views from the Top session that TEFCA is taking interoperability to the next level and he has “every expectation that by the end of this calendar year, we'll have a couple of networks signed up and onboarding.” He also talked about "a whole bunch of different things in the area of standards and data quality" that the ONC is working on.
"We're pulling all of those levers in the direction of public health towards what we're calling 'North Star' architecture," Tripathi said.
For more information on Health Gorilla, our recent partnerships, or our intent to become one of the first QHINs under TEFCA, visit our blog on healthgorilla.com. If you'd like to talk with one of our digital health experts or are interested in exploring a partnership with Health Gorilla, please contact us.