Health information exchanges (HIEs) require first, that health data is entered in an electronic health record (EHR) system, and secondly, that EHRs are “interoperable” and can effectively connect with one another to enable secure, private exchange of health information. In Texas, the approach to HIE is through a statewide network of local HIEs. Local HIEs in Texas connect to HIETexas and can then exchange information with one another. Additionally, while still in development, HIETexas state-level shared services will ultimately enable local HIEs to exchange health information with other data sources within the state, and between Texas and other authorized HIEs and federal agencies outside of Texas.
In yet another positive step toward building the state’s HIE infrastructure, HIETexas is piloting the exchange of data with other authorized HIEs outside of the state through its membership in the national eHealth Exchange. HIETexas is actively testing with another member of the national eHealth Exchange – the Kansas Health Information Network (KHIN) – to test the exchange of data between the two state level HIEs. KHIN is a not-for-profit organization with founding members that include the Kansas Medical Society and the Kansas Hospital Association. KHIN has over 900 member organizations representing Kansas hospitals, clinics, federally qualified health centers, community mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers and others.
By connecting two state-level HIEs, health care providers in Texas will be able to query health information on a patient whose primary care doctor and records are in Kansas; and health care providers in Kansas will be able to query health information on a patient whose primary care doctor and records are in Texas. This helps to ensure that when individuals travel across state lines, which they frequently do for convenience or medical care preferences, their medical records are accessible in the event of an emergency or routine care.
The testing phase confirms foundational interoperability between HIEs and that data is exchanged in compliance with privacy and security standards. Once the testing phase is complete, HIETexas and KHIN will be successfully connected to one another and health information can be exchanged among providers who are connected to HIETexas and KHIN.
The selection of Texas and Kansas is important because of the patient population that travels between the two states. Laura McCrary Ed.D, executive director of KHIN, stated, “We’re pleased to be in the testing phase with HIETexas. Leveraging our connection to the eHealth Exchange to share data with HIETexas is a significant step forward, as Kansas patients travel to parts of Texas for health care and to vacation.”