The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced five cooperative agreements to health information exchange organizations (HIEs) to help support state and local public health agencies in their efforts to respond to public health emergencies, including disasters and pandemics such as COVID-19.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the health IT arm of HHS, is administering $2.5 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Acts (CARES Act). The funding will support local HIEs under the Strengthening the Technical Advancement and Readiness of Public Health Agencies via Health Information Exchange (STAR HIE) Program, federal officials stated in the announcement.
Each of the five recipients will work to improve HIE services so that public health agencies can better access, share, and use health information during public health emergencies. These efforts will also support communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
The five HIEs, each awarded two-year cooperative agreements, are summarized below, with key details on their respective goals:
· Georgia Health Information Network, Inc. (GaHIN)
Georgia Health Information Network will support the Georgia Department of Public Health and Georgia Department of Community Health to better access, share, and use electronic health information, especially data from populations underserved and/or disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will include increasing the reporting to a state-wide COVID-19 registry and expanding public health reporting and data enrichment for providers not connected to GaHIN.
· Health Current (Arizona)
Health Current (Arizona) will support the Arizona Department of Health Services by improving the timeliness, accuracy, and completeness of hospital reporting of key COVID-19 healthcare data, including facility hospitalization metrics, personal protective equipment (PPE) inventories, and ventilator inventory and utilization. Health Current will also seek to reduce hospitals and health system burden related to state and federal reporting requirements by using the HIE as a data intermediary.
· HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania (HSX)
HealthShare Exchange will modernize the region’s pandemic response with the use of automated application programming interfaces (APIs), supporting the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. HSX will also facilitate public health agency use of the Delaware Valley COVID-19 Registry, and create new clinical data connections based on public health agency priorities.
· Kansas Health Information Network, Inc. (KHIN) d/b/a KONZA
The Kansas Health Information Network’s KONZA team will expand the number of providers participating in the HIE, enhance lab data that is already being exchanged and combining it with existing HIE data for public health reporting, and add additional information to its real-time alerting platform for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
· Texas Health Services Authority
The Texas Health Services Authority, in partnership with Healthcare Access San Antonio (HASA, a regional HIE covering multiple regions in Texas), a local hospital partner, and Audacious Inquiry (Ai), will conduct a proof-of-concept pilot to demonstrate real-time, automated exchange of hospital capacity and other situational awareness data through APIs using HL7® Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®). This improved reporting will support the Texas Department of State Health Services.
These five awards represent a range of activities across different geographic regions of the country. The cooperative agreements will include cross-recipient collaboration to leverage their collective expertise and ensure the sharing of implementation experience gained from the program. This will bolster the likelihood of success and enable better replicability of the projects throughout the country, HHS officials contend.
Throughout the pandemic, Healthcare Innovation has highlighted the role HIEs have played across the country in data aggregation an accessibility, and information sharing. One example is how KeyHIE in Pennsylvania worked to make COVID-19 reportable lab results to be instantly shared with other providers connected to the HIE. Another example is the Indiana Health Information Exchange working to deploy visual data dashboard for the state department of health to track important measures on how COVID-19 is impacting Indiana.
“Health information exchanges have long served important roles in their states and regions by helping health data flow to treat patients,” said Don Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT. “These STAR HIEs will help public health officials make real-time decisions during emergencies like fires, floods, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic.’