New link improves health-data exchange for millions

Share care: Patient data generated by Northwell Health and the Mount Sinai Health System is now integrated with Healthix, the nation's largest public Health Information Exchange.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

In a move designed to fill the gaps between public and private healthcare data networks, Northwell Health has plugged into New York’s (and the nation’s) largest public Health Information Exchange.

New York City-based Healthix, a Big Data firm focused on patient information, has also connected to the Mount Sinai Health System’s private Health Information Exchange, creating a new three-way HIE connection that provides “tight integration” between the public and private systems – and a more “trustworthy” flow of electronic health records between disparate providers, according to a Healthix announcement.

All three of the HIEs in play here are built on HealthShare, an information-exchange platform maintained by 39-year-old Massachusetts tech firm InterSystems Inc.

With the integration, announced Thursday by Healthix, clinical data generated by Northwell and Mount Sinai practitioners is now available in real time to every other provider in the Healthix network – which covers hundreds of organizations, some 1,500 facilities across NYC and Long Island and more than 16 million patients – and vice-versa.

Since the advent of electronic health records, clinicians have been limited to accessing only their own health system’s data, even though patients may be treated outside that system, and any information exchanges that did occur were generally limited to lab results and “encounter data,” provider-services information used primarily to develop cost profiles and adjust premiums.

But through HealthShare, volumes of critical patient information – from allergies and immunizations to medical histories and insurance plans – flows in a “bidirectional exchange,” according to Healthix, facilitating “more informed decision-making” at every level.

Vish Anantraman: One interface to rule them all.

Vish Anantraman, the chief information architect within Northwell Health’s IT group, said the New Hyde Park-based health system – New York’s largest healthcare provider by number of patients and employees – has traditionally struggled with the exchange of information between Northwell and outside providers, with “more than 40 interfaces to manage.”

“Connecting our information systems with others was challenging with traditional interfaces, and ongoing maintenance was expensive,” Anantraman said. “Now, with just one interface, we can easily send all the data from our systems to Healthix and the [Statewide Health Information Network for New York].

“It is less expensive to operate and we have richer clinical data for care coordination.”

Healthix data contributors include hospitals, health insurance plans, private physician practices, behavioral health facilities, long-term care facilities, Medicaid-sponsored health homes, independent laboratories and pharmacies and various electronic health-information hubs.

Now add data from New York’s two largest health systems to the mix. Northwell Health boasts 22 hospitals and more than 550 affiliated outpatient facilities, with 62,000-plus employees providing care for some 2 million patients annually. The Mount Sinai system, based in New York City, employs roughly 7,100 primary and specialty-care physicians and operates 12 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers, as well as 140 ambulatory practices and 31 affiliated community-health centers across Long Island, the five boroughs, Westchester County and Florida.

Connecting with all those providers and patients – and the immense volume of data they generate – marks a significant forward step for Healthix, a key partner in the SHIN-NY, a function of the New York State Department of Health and the New York eHealth Collaborative.

And it’s more than just a coup for his company, according to Healthix President and CEO Tom Check, who referenced the growing need for interoperability in an increasingly connected healthcare world.

In fact, Healthix’s expansion won’t stop with these latest additions, the CEO noted.

“The robust set of clinical data generated by Northwell Health and the Mount Sinai Health System will soon expand to include the complete Common Clinical Data Set promoted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology,” Check said Thursday.