Turning Data Into Direction

DATA. This four letter word has created just as many opportunities as it has destroyed, much like the other popular, albeit more profane, four letter words. In the realm of Health Information Exchanges (HIE), “data” is a buzzword like no other. If you don’t have data, you definitely don’t have an HIE.

So, with all of the focus on data in the trade literature today, what is ”good data”? Is there ”bad data”? Which HIEs are using their data strategically rather than producing endlessly growing mountains of terabytes and petabytes that are virtually unusable?

One innovative leader turning data into direction is Dr. Laura McCrary, Executive Director of the Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN). KHIN has been a beacon for HIEs across the nation since its inception. In approximately one year, it will become a self-sustaining HIEs, a laudable milestone. In addition to its methodology for attaining income (see the blog “Financial Independence for HIEs”), Dr. McCrary says KHIN’s reason for success is simple; “You have to provide value rather than volume.” KHIN follows this statement like a motto; KHIN provides streamlined services such as DIRECT Messaging, the MyKsHealth eRecords portal, query audit reports, patient querying, Electronic Lab Reporting, Direct Health Internet Service Provider Connections for HIEs and EMRs. Its infrastructure can produce broader yet just as meaningful information. The data warehouse can produce population health reporting and can even monitor the success rates of provider activities. Further, warehouse can produce a plethora of analytical data which has proven to be important to both KHIE’s HIEs and providers.

All of KHIN’s analytical success came after a few lessons. When asked what was the biggest lesson, Dr. McCrary replied “As a health information exchange you have got to meet providers where they are through technology.” This was a daunting task, since providers had an array of technological enablers and capabilities as well as inadequacies. Dr. McCrary lends much credit to KHIN’s technology vendor, Informatics Corporation of America (ICA). ICA built a customized web portal that enables the secure transport of clinical information across care settings regardless of EHR technology and services in place.

KHIN has proven that creating meaningful uses of data from HIEs is science, art and sometimes alchemy. The art derives from understanding of the community you serve while the alchemy is providing a powerful yet flexible infrastructure that maximizes the potential of full interoperability and intelligence capabilities. If data is not presented in a reasonably structured format that can be quickly queried and accessed by the user, its usefulness is minimal.

Another event occurring at KHIN is how they are working with colleges and universities. There is plenty of room for research in the Health Information Technology industry, and KHIN is doing their part to contribute. “The KHIN Board has finalized our secondary data use policy.” states Dr. McCrary. “This allows KHIN de-identified data to be shared with others for purposes of program evaluation, quality improvement, clinical best practices and medical research. We are very excited to be able to advance the practice of medicine with real time clinical data. “

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