By Gary Larson, executive vice president and general manager of HIE solutions, eHealth Technologies.
The Strategic Health Information Collaborative (SHIEC) Annual Conference took place again, this time as a five-week virtual event from August 17 to September 15.
Having come to grips with my lost opportunity to socialize with several hundred of my closest friends and colleagues, the fact that this year’s SHIEC sessions were spaced out over such a long stretch of time provided an interesting opportunity to reflect on the state of affairs in health information exchange (HIE).
In one sense, the 2020 conference resembled previous years – a gathering of largely the same group of industry representatives who eat, sleep and breathe HIE and reinforce among ourselves what we already know to be true.
We already know that our healthcare system will improve only as health information exchange improves. We already know we will never have a truly efficient and effective healthcare system until:
- we are able to acquire, validate, and normalize health records from all points of care
- we are able to curate and present records in a meaningful way at the point of care
- we establish workable standards for interoperability between systems and networks
- we remove the barriers to sharing healthcare information
- we provide public health services with comprehensive, high quality health data in a timely manner
These are inarguable truths, yet many of us are frustrated with the painstakingly slow progress we seem to make year-upon-year.
COVID-19 is the largest crisis of my lifetime, yet may very well be the disruptive force needed to accelerate progress to previously unimaginable levels. Disruptions caused by COVID-19 are not restricted to healthcare and health information exchange.
- We have witnessed more innovation and creativity in our education system in a few short months than the previous decades or even centuries.
- Businesses are re-engineering their models, adapting new technologies to support work-from-home practices that will improve the productivity and quality of life of their employees, reduce overhead costs, and benefit the environment.
- While far too many retail and service businesses have been decimated by this pandemic, some are seizing the opportunity to finally build out their digital presence to compete in the 21st century.
We are beginning to experience some benefits from disruptive changes in healthcare as well. Providers, patients and payers have been forced to provide remote telehealth services that reduce costs, increase access, and improve clinician productivity.
Our political leaders are becoming increasingly enlightened as to the criticality of robust population health initiatives and the importance of accessing high quality, real-time health data needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each of these rapidly accelerating trends require health information exchange. The HIEs and member organizations that make up SHIEC are positioned in the sweet spot to effect these changes. This year of 2020, one of the most difficult years in memory, can be our opportunity to shine. At eHealth Technologies we are fortunate to have partnered with many of the excellent Health Information Exchanges within SHIEC, and eagerly embrace the opportunity to do our part.