How Health Information Exchange Brings Meaning to "Meaningful Use"

As winter marches on through February, the IHIN team continues to work on connecting major Iowa integrated health systems, as well as a variety of smaller, independent providers, to the new Iowa Health Information Network. A topic that is frequently raised in our discussions with provider groups is the federal requirements around “Meaningful Use.” Specifically, how does IHIN help providers qualify for Stage 2 Meaningful Use?  And, perhaps more importantly, how does IHIN help make meeting Stage 2 objectives truly meaningful in terms of improved care coordination, better health outcomes and strategically driven population health initiatives? Let’s take a quick look at the basics to demonstrate the direct connection between IHIN and a healthier state in Iowa.

Stage 1 Meaningful Use established requirements for providers to electronically capture patient data and to provide health information to their patients in an electronic format. Electronic Health Records (EHR) incentive program payments were the driving force for providers to grow technologically toward truly meaningful use.

Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements include processes that leverage health information technology to improve clinical quality at the point of care. The focus on quality improvement has led to reporting requirements for various quality measures, designed to serve as benchmarks for improvement in healthcare outcomes and population health.

The final rule also supports direct patient benefits by promoting secure online access for patients to view their health information. We all are “patients” at various times of life and many of us have experienced frustration leaving our physician’s office feeling confused about what we have just experienced or heard. Accessible, accurate information helps us as patients to more actively participate in and drive our own health care.

Health Information Exchange (HIE) is a cornerstone for improved quality of care. In an era where a significant portion of the population receives different forms of health care from multiple specialists, it’s crucial for providers to be able to share data and securely access vital patient information to improve care.

Healthcare has long understood the importance of social determinants of health (SDoH), such as nutritional management and support, transportation needs, housing, addiction treatment and many other elements that impact the overall care and treatment of patients. As we begin to integrate social determinants of health into the patient’s active care plan, it’s essential to have access to real-time communication of accurate, relevant data.

Doctors with Medical Records

Direct secure messaging (DSM) is one simple but powerful tool associated with HIE that allows a provider to send critical clinical values directly from their EHR to another provider that needs the information now — real time — to save a life. Those use cases are dramatic, but now surprisingly common in states with high-functioning HIEs.

On a more routine basis, DSM can be used to promote care coordination, monitor patient conditions and handle routine health issues, even among varying types of providers. Physicians and their care management staff can communicate with durable medical equipment (DME) providers, emergency or non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), county health agencies, homeless shelters, food pantries and more. 

When a state HIE has a strong, high-functioning platform as well as a robust database fed by providers and members across the state, like the IHIN does with our new Orion Amadeus platform,  the potential for strategic analytics is beyond what we have previously thought possible for Iowa. By integrating this broad base of key clinical data with the claims data, we gain reliable metrics to identify and drive new clinical best practices. We also acquire data pools for trending studies to support community health planning – like incorporating the range of social determinants of health.

Health Information Exchange (HIE) is the up-and-coming essential tool that will allow Iowa providers to achieve the progressively staged requirements of Meaningful Use. In conjunction, Iowa’s new health information network, the IHIN, provides the needed technology and expertise. But more importantly, IHIN provides a dedicated team of seasoned professionals who are passionate about making HIE in Iowa truly meaningful in order to make a measurable and palpable difference in healthcare in our state.