New Mexico HIE Leaders Drive Towards ‘One Unified Interoperability Solution’

It’s not a sustainable business model anymore for HIEs to just move data between systems, says one industry leader

AuthorRajiv Leventhal

Across the U.S. healthcare landscape, health information exchange (HIE) leaders are continuously pursuing innovation strategies to demonstrate their value. In New Mexico, for example, Syncronys, the state’s designated HIE, recently announced that together with population health management solutions company Orion Health, they will be launching what officials call “a next-generation health information exchange model.”

Together, Syncronys and Orion Health will aim to break down data-sharing barriers, increase interoperability, and enhance the functionality, data sets, reach, and overall value of the HIE, officials added.

As part of the collaboration, Orion Health migrated Syncronys’ legacy HIE platform, existing interface connections, and historical data to the Orion Health Amadeus platform, which has multiple HIEs running on it and uses a database to capture and align patient information from several providers and payers. The migration also included deployment of new modules from Orion.

Importantly, officials assert, the new solutions will interoperate with partner vendors’ solutions as required, in accordance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) vision to enhance, utilize, and share technology in place in the healthcare ecosystem. For instance, Syncronys and Orion are also teaming up with care coordination solutions vendor Collective Medical, and Rhodes Group, a subsidiary of TriCore Reference Laboratories in Albuquerque, on this new innovation.

A few joint goals include connecting the majority of New Mexico healthcare facilities and providers to the HIE, and expanding access to and increasing the health data stored in the aggregated longitudinal clinical record to include diagnostic images, advance directives and Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment forms and data analytics dashboards to provide actionable insights, company leaders say.

In a recent interview, Syncronys CEO Tom East shared more thoughts about the collaboration and the overall HIE landscape. Below are excerpts of that discussion.

What are the broad goals of this partnership? What challenges are you specifically looking to solve?

The ultimate goal is to have one unified interoperability solution for New Mexico. Over time, historically, a there [have been] a number of different vendors in this space marketing different flavors of similar things, and it would get confusing to clinicians. So when our state decided to apply for HITECH funding and [create] an expanded interoperability solution for the state, they wisely [told us] we need to work well together, that it needs to look seamless, and it needs to be easy for clinicians to access and use. So that was the challenge, and we came together with different vendors; in some ways we were competitors before, but now we’re all working together for one set of deliverables that’s part of this program.

What functionalities does this new HIE platform having that sets it apart from others?

Like the rest of the HIE community, we have realized that it’s not sufficient to just move data around. If that’s your view of what an HIE is—that this is a way to just move data between systems—then you won’t have a sustainable business model. So we can aggregate and move data, but what can we do to really provide value for clinicians?

We made a conscious effort to focus on particular use cases that are high-value use cases. We then built out the necessary infrastructure to support those use cases. One of those, for example, is being able to deliver diagnostic quality imaging to the person who needs it at the point of care. We have looked at providing advanced analytics solutions, and we have looked at a use case focused on substance use disorder and medical assisted treatment— coordinating care between the acute care setting and a medical assisted treatment facility. We have also looked at managing behavioral health and transitions between acute care and behavioral healthcare.

We have also focused on expanding Collective Medical’s emergency department use case to add much more information from the HIE than they had previously to give expanded insights to clinicians. We are working with Rhodes Group to do use cases focused on Hepatitis C, which also provides clinical decision support about Hep C, such as what diagnostic tests are needed, what treatments those [patients] should be on, and what the treatment schedule should be. And we have added an expansion of our core infrastructure using Orion to move to their Amadeus platform, which is a HITRUST-certified platform that offers new functionalities such as medication administration and reconciliation. The whole idea is to do a lot more with the data than [only] moving it from place to place.

How will progress be measured?

We have a set of 43 deliverables in our contract with the New Mexico Human Services Department—very specific deliverables related to our use cases. But in general, we are pushing for getting more than 85 percent of all the participating organizations to share as much as the USCDI [United States Core Data for Interoperability] data set as possible, and we are making good progress on that. We’re much further along with hospitals than clinics, but we are making good progress all around. The more data we have, the more comprehensive the information, the more you can do with it, and that all adds to the value.

HIEs have played a critical role during the pandemic, serving as an important link between public health and patient care organizations. Can you discuss some of the action taken on the part of Syncronys during this time and how it has helped its members with COVID response?

We have had a long relationship with the public health department in New Mexico, as public reporting goes through us; we aggregate the information and deliver it to the Department of Health. When the pandemic [began], there was a rapid expansion in the number of labs being used for COVID testing, so we brought on 20 or 30 different laboratories over the last year and a half [to use] their COVID testing data. That’s been our primary goal.

We have also helped homeless shelters when they had to make decisions on if they should house [non-COVID-positive] people in a shelter designed for those who have been exposed to COVID. But they didn’t have access to tests when people showed up to the shelter, so we helped them get access to COVID test results for the homeless. We also have been facilitating access for infusion therapies for treatment where they needed the latest tests for COVID before they could start the infusion therapy for [those patients].

We clearly see the advantages—and our state does too—of working with the HIE for public health. I think the pandemic has opened our eyes to the new types of data we ought to be considering. For instance, in the past we have focused on clinical information, but in this pandemic we have seen a need to have information on bed, ventilator and PPE availability. This is data that we have historically never captured. So it’s been enlightening when thinking about what we ought to be gathering in the future.