HIE Formation Part VI: Developing Critical Mass

By Laura Kolkman, RN, MS, FHIMSS, and Bob Brown

In this series of monthly articles, based in part on their recently published book, the authors discuss current HIE related events and leading practices within the context of forming an HIE initiative in your state, region or community. This series of articles was launched in the March 2011 issue of HIELights.

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in your quest to achieve a sustainable HIE is to attain a critical mass of interested, informed and empowered people.

In our May column, “Choosing Your Companions,” we discussed getting the “right kind” of people involved in your HIE planning and formation efforts. Hopefully you’ve done that. If you have, they’ve probably already volunteered – or have been assigned – to head up the five essential workgroups we described in our June column, “Teaming for Success.”

In addition to getting the “right people” on board, you also need to make sure you’re getting enough of them involved. Your core group – those that are now in the leadership positions on your steering committee and functioning as the chairs of the various workgroups – needs to be supplemented with people who have experience and expertise in a variety of areas. Trying to do all the required work to plan and form an HIE using only your core team members is an invitation for failure.

You must recruit and motivate extended team members who will be getting involved in the details. The best way to do this is, as we mentioned in May, is to “trust [the core team members] to help you identify and recruit additional people who also believe in the quest.” Bringing on additional team members is essential.

Ensure that your core team members know that they’re each expected to bring additional people into the project. The number will vary. In some cases, each core team member should be responsible for recruiting an average of two additional people. In some cases, the correct number might be five people. Discuss it at the steering committee level, define your objective for the number of additional people needed and be sure the expectation is communicated to each of your core team members. Revise the number as your needs change.

In addition to performing the many required tasks associated with the planning and formation of your HIE, these additional people should also be considered ambassadors to the larger community; spreading the word of the benefits that will be realized once the HIE is operational. Make sure they’re each welcomed aboard and properly educated as to the HIE’s objectives and progress. They should be able to clearly articulate the HIE’s objectives and anticipated benefits to others in the community.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to “do it all” with just your initial core group. Make the time to recruit and acclimate new team members. Forming an HIE is a community effort, and the larger community needs to be involved.

That’s the first step to sustainability.

Laura Kolkman, RN, MS, FHIMSS is the president of Mosaica Partners and Bob Brown is the vice president of Professional Services. Their book, The Health Information Exchange Formation Guide, was published by HIMSS in February. HIMSS’ companion website, where you can read chapter summaries and download select tables, figures, illustrations and checklists, is available at www.himss.org/hieformationguide.