Health Data Exchange Advanced in New Pilot Program | EHR and Health IT Consulting |

Nationwide health data exchange and EHR interoperability continue to impact the healthcare sector, as these objectives are the overarching goals of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs as well as many healthcare organizations and patient advocacy groups. At the HIMSS15 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, the topic of health data exchange remains at the forefront of company initiatives.

Healtheway is one organization that developed a new initiative called Carequality, which essentially consists of an inner network of EHR interoperability. In its pilot phase, Carequality is expected to connect 200,000 physicians and 40,000 medical practices around the country.

At the HIMSS15 Annual Conference, spoke with Healtheway CEO Mariann Yeager and Carequality Director Dave Cassel to learn more about the health IT platforms necessary to develop effective health data exchange models and improve EHR interoperability.

When asked about how the Carequality initiative began and the motivations behind it, Mariann Yeager stated, “A little over a year ago, Healtheway was approached by different groups who felt that there has been enough progress, uptake, and building of data sharing networks that there needed to be a neutral forum to figure out how to connect those networks.”

“We did some due diligence and realized there are very large data sharing networks, such as the eHealth Exchange, and others being formed and growing — CommonWell, lab networks, pharmacy networks, payer networks — and we’re reaching the point where there was just a desire and a need to figure out how to connect them,” Yeager continued. “Rather than doing it point-to-point, why not try to find a standardized way to do so. That was really culmination of all those discussions, which led to the formation Carequality to serve as a public-private endeavor.” asked the HIMSS15 participants about the requirements needed to be included in this pilot program. Carequality Director Dave Cassel explained that there are certain rules and regulations that need to be followed in order to take part in a health data exchange platform.

“There is what we call the Carequality framework that consists of a few central elements. One of them is the common rules of the road that you would agree to as legally-binding rules for the data sharing network and the participants within that network as well, but we’re doing it through the networks,” Cassel said. “The framework also includes technical specifications. We’re not a standards body. We’re not creating new standards. We’re identifying the standards to be used and in some case further constraining them to remove optionality.”

“We do envision using the framework for many different use cases. We want to engage with the payer community. We want to engage with long-term post-acute care. We want to engage with mental and behavioral health,” Cassel continued. “We want to understand their EHR interoperability needs, figure out how to leverage the framework, and – this ability from the rules of the road standpoint – to connect everyone in a fairly generic fashion. And then we’ll pick the right standards for each of those use cases. I would envision there would be use cases to leverage Direct messaging, FHIR — it’s all coming. One of the things we have to do is work with what’s already out there in the field. The whole point of connecting data sharing networks is to get existing instant scale from efforts that are already in place and to do that you need to meet people where they are today, which is with the IHE profiles for the most part.”