Rockland Is Ready—Are You?

January 17th, 2017 - County health clinics are obtaining patient consent and contributing important records to the HIE. Now provider organizations need to catch up.

No one can be more excited about HealthlinkNY than Ron Hansen, Deputy Health Commissioner of Rockland County. The health department operates health clinics in Spring Valley and Pomona, and went live with a bi-directional connection to HealthlinkNY last spring.

“We hope this will take us into the new century of healthcare,” he says. With a volume of more than 14,000 patient visits a year, the health department’s clinics are collecting consent from patients to look up their medical records.

That’s the good news, but now Rockland is waiting for other providers to catch up.

“Our goal is to get more providers on board [with HealthlinkNY],” explains Kevin McKay, MPH, Director of Epidemiology at the health department. “It would ease the workflow for us.”

While many Rockland provider organizations are using the HealthlinkNY Web Portal, which allows them to look up patient records, most are only beginning the process of contributing data to the Health Information Exchange (HIE). That means Rockland’s health clinics cannot gain access to their patients’ complete records, which can lead to duplicate testing, delayed diagnosis and treatment, and extra costs.

More records will be made available soon, as New York State requires Article 28 hospitals to begin contributing a minimum of seven data elements by March 9, 2017. In addition, organizations involved in New York State’s Delivery Service Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program need to participate fully in the HIE.

Uploading Vital Patient Records

The information that Rockland County health clinics contribute to the HealthlinkNY HIE is vital to other providers that the patients might see. The clinics test and treat patients for tuberculosis, sexually transmitted infections, and infectious diseases. Rockland’s health department also operates immunization and vaccine clinics, and provides family planning and home health care services. The information is crucial to the three DSRIP Provider Performing Systems (PPSs) operating in the county. “We are a safety net provider, and we are treating the same population whose care will be managed by the PPSs,” Mr. Hansen explains.

Rockland’s health department has many uses in mind for HealthlinkNY, particularly during patient intake. They are already collecting consent from patients to look up their medical records through the HIE. Denis Troy, PMP, Assistant Director MIS-Applications Development for the County of Rockland, says that Irene Friday, the HealthlinkNY account manager who supports Rockland, “has been fantastic” in coaching the frontline staff on how to solicit patient consents in a friendly, positive way. “Irene has led training sessions multiple times, either through conference calls or by visiting our different clinics,” he says.

Clinic patients in particular would benefit from HealthlinkNY, Mr. Hansen points out. “Many of the people we see have limited English,” he explains, and it can be difficult for them to obtain records directly from their providers. There are frequent requests for documentation showing a negative test result for tuberculosis, or proof that an individual has completed treatment for the disease. “With HealthlinkNY, we can have that information available in our system, making it much easier for them,” he says.

Mr. McKay notes that until providers begin to contribute a significant amount of data to HealthlinkNY, he will have to supplement the information he finds in the HIE with faxes from other medical offices. “My wife laughs at me,” he says. “She can’t believe I’m still using a fax machine!”

But it won’t be forever. HealthlinkNY is working closely with hospital systems and medical practices in Rockland County and throughout the Hudson Valley to connect their electronic health records to the HIE so they can contribute data. All providers are invited to learn more about how HealthlinkNY can take them into the next century of healthcare by visiting http://www.healthlinkny.com/providers-services-pg.html or emailing pr@healthlinkny.com.