HIE Formation

Part II: Getting Started on the Journey

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. Last month’s issue of HIELights featured the first article in the series.

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

Before embarking on any type of journey, it’s best to be prepared with the appropriate supplies, an understanding of the companions who’ll be joining you, a well defined destination and a map that describes the inevitable twists and turns and points of interest—and danger—you’ll encounter along the way. The journey involved in forming an HIE is no different. Like the Boy Scouts, you should be prepared.

In this case, the appropriate supplies definitely include information, specifically information on the history of health information exchange, details concerning the emphasis on the privacy of patient’s personal health information, the relevant laws and regulations and the documented experiences of those who have successfully made the journey before you. The information about their individual journeys is interesting—if not essential—reading before you set out on your own adventure. Based on recent events, you’ll also want to have a high level understanding of meaningful use and the recent announcements concerning the role of accountable care organizations (ACOs).

Your companions on this journey will include fellow members of your community, the interested parties who will participate with you in the planning and operation of the HIE, as well as those who will be impacted by its existence and especially those who will benefit once it has become operational. These are your stakeholders. They’ll be with you on the journey. Get to know them and their skills and their concerns. You’ll be communicating with them throughout the journey.

In this case, your well defined destination consists of a clear description of the attributes of successful HIEs—those characteristics that differentiate the successful HIE from the merely attempted. Specifically, you’ll need a description of the attributes that describe the kind of HIE that will be successful in your community. As in any journey, it’s hard to tell whether you’ve reached your destination unless you have a clear understanding of what it actually looks like.

Finally, you’ll want a map—a plan of action that will enable you to successfully navigate from your starting point to your desired destination. Do your research. Read and make use of articles and books that describe those leading practices in HIE formation that have proven successful. Talk to people who have made the journey before you. Your map should be based on their experiences.

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.