The VA and others pioneer eHealth Exchange health information network infrastructure

The eHealth Exchange, the largest nationwide health information network connecting the public and private sectors, has announced the go-live of its new gateway technology that is designed to simplify connectivity for its participants via a single connection to the nation.

The benefits to members, the exchange said, will include reduced information-sharing expense, further expansion of its national footprint, and faster implementation of innovative capabilities such as real-time content quality validation and a national record locator service.

Supporting further innovation

When the eHealth Exchange was formed more than a decade ago by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), the government opted for a federated exchange approach, stopping short of creating a required gateway. As the proposed national network for health information exchange, the government favored an open-market and decentralized approach that would support further innovation, much like the internet.

Today, the landscape has changed. Though the eHealth Exchange remains the largest network of its kind, there are multiple large and thriving networks. The eHealth Exchange can now adopt a more centralized health information network approach by providing a common gateway for all participants. This is also a step toward supporting additional exchange methods beyond query and a breadth of new use-cases.

“The Veterans Health Information Exchange (VHIE), AdventHealth, InterCommunity CCO and OCHIN were our pioneer partners,” said Jay Nakashima, executive director of eHealth Exchange. “Their unwavering commitment to query-based connectivity to improve patient care drove us from implementation kick-off to live, bi-directional exchange using the new eHealth Exchange technology in just four months.”

The eHealth Exchange leverages the InterSystems platform integrated with the eHealth Exchange’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) healthcare directory as the basis for the hub model. The hub will make it dramatically easier for organizations to connect to each other using a “connect once” model to reach any other member of the network, the exchange contended.

Faster access to correct patient records

This approach leads to faster access to correct patient records at a lower implementation cost, the exchange said. The eHealth Exchange network’s modernized approach will also help organizations to prepare for pending regulatory changes, such as information blocking and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) interoperability rule, as well as meeting expectations in the ONC’s pending Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), the exchange stated.

“This eHealth Exchange architecture will help decrease complexity, cost and security risk of our connections to our community partners.” said Dr. Jonathan Nebeker, acting chief medical information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It improves appropriate access to veteran’s health data and will help VA and community providers provide better care.”

With more than 75% of all hospitals in America and 61 regional and state health information exchanges (HIEs) participating in the nationwide eHealth Exchange, the evolution from point-to-point connections to a one-gateway solution will dramatically increase connectivity for the entire country while saving millions of dollars in IT infrastructure and effort for network participants and their future exchange partners, the exchange contended.

The Carequality Interoperability Framework

As the network’s participants continue to transition to the gateway approach, early adopters of the new architecture are expanding their focus to complete implementation of the Carequality Interoperability Framework.

The nationwide trusted exchange framework already is leveraged by an estimated 600,000 physicians to share more than 36 million clinical documents a month across and among disparate networks, the exchange reported.

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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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