5 Questions for Lindsay Farrell, Vice Chair of HealthlinkNY's Board of Directors

June 15th, 2016 - Lindsay Farrell says regional connectivity has vastly improved in the Hudson Valley since Southern Tier Health Link and THINC merged to create HealthlinkNY. Now providers need to catch up.

Lindsay Farrell, vice chair of the HealthlinkNY Board of Directors, likes to use the phrase “information liquidity” in describing the power of electronic health record (EHR) interoperability. To her, information liquidity represents a fast and frictionless flow of crucial electronic health information to where it is needed, when it is needed. “Patients [seek medical care] all over the place,” she says. Information needs to follow them, and then flow back to their medical homes.

Farrell is President and CEO of Open Door Family Medical Center, a Federally Qualified Community Health Center (FQHC) treating more than 52,000 patients annually in five locations in Westchester and Putnam counties. Open Door, one of the Hudson Valley’s health information technology (HIT) pioneers, is recognized as a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA). Open Door also is a recipient of the prestigious national Davies Award from Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

Recently, HealthlinkNY spoke to Farrell about her views on the level of connectivity in the Hudson Valley.

 

Q. When it comes to electronic health record (EHR) connectivity in the Hudson Valley, are we there yet?

A. We are starting to see the inklings of the interoperability that we have been dreaming about. HealthlinkNY has been rapidly connecting providers in the Hudson Valley. Now, providers, particularly hospitals, need to contribute data. Everyone needs to participate [contribute data] for [the health information exchange (HIE)] to be valuable.

 

Q. What was Open Door’s incentive to contribute data?

A. We were an early adoptor of electronic health records (EHRs). We Initially used them to compile data to meet federal reporting requirements, but it soon became apparent that the EHRs could be used as a tool to transform patient care, which is something I care deeply about. Practice transformation is no small undertaking. You cannot transform a practice without a robust health information technology system.

 

Q. What led you to get involved with regional HIEs?

A. The Hudson Valley’s regional health information organization, Taconic Health Information Network Collaborative (THINC), actively embraced many healthcare transformation initiatives, including supporting medical homes and advancing primary care. It was interested in the same things that interest Open Door, such as finding more effective ways to manage patient care, and improving communication among providers along the continuum. I became the board chair.

 

Q. THINC merged with Southern Tier Health Link in late 2014. Are they better together?

A. Yes. THINC laid the groundwork for a HIE in the Hudson Valley, but development was slow and hospitals lost confidence that it would happen.  At the same time, Southern Tier Health Link had developed its HIE and did an exceptional job in connecting providers in the Southern Tier of New York. As HealthlinkNY, we have made excellent progress in connecting providers in the Hudson Valley.

 

Q. Do you have any tips to help new participating providers get the most of the HIE?

A. Yes, I have two suggestions. First, EHR interoperability depends on a single piece of paper – a signed consent form from the patient. Providers should begin collecting patient consent forms as part of their routine intake process. When Open Door patients sign in, they get a clipboard of forms to read and sign for consent for treatment, payment, and to give their health information to HealthlinkNY. Nearly everyone signs when they understand how important health information is to quality healthcare.                                   

Second, HealthlinkNY is working on delivering real-time event-based patient alerts, e.g., alerting providers that a patient has presented at the emergency room, when the provider may be able to prevent a hospital admission. Open Door is getting ready for a surge of data and notifications delivered through HealthlinkNY. We will be getting a lot more information from hospitals than before, when it was delivered by fax. We as providers need to begin thinking about how to manage the increased workflow, and how to put data to use to improve patient care.

To learn more about Open Door Family Medical Centers please click here.