Healthcare interoperability isn’t exactly a household phrase. The general public doesn’t sit around the dinner table talking about healthcare data exchange.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the conversation, though. Here’s just one example from mainstream media, the New York Times, covering data standards in a recent article. The author writes:
Large, national laboratories typically have software that allows them to communicate electronically with a wide range of hospitals and public health systems. But smaller labs, drawn to coronavirus testing by high payment rates, often don’t invest in expensive software packages when they can simply send data by fax instead.
“Send data by fax.” You read that right. And it’s 2020.
What the general public is now seeing is that IT infrastructure for public health is nowhere near where it should be. Not in “normal” circumstances — and certainly not during a pandemic.
The question is what can health IT vendors do to solve these complex problems?
We can innovate. And that’s exactly what Lyniate and other vendors are doing.
We at Lyniate are participating in a number of efforts to help ease the burden on public health systems when it comes to sharing data efficiently. This isn’t something we just started doing. Nearly all the state departments of health as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use Rhapsody for data exchange. Our footprint in this sector is quite large and has been for many years.
One of the ways we’re innovating is by participating with other healthcare organizations to test different solutions aimed at facilitating healthcare data exchange with public health agencies and their data trading partners, such as labs and health systems. I recently had the privilege of participating in a conference organized by NACCHO (National Association of County and City Health Officials).
NACCHO serves local, city, and county health departments assisting in supporting better practices and systems. The conference takes place annually and is made up of health IT vendors and organizations such as state and local health departments.
In this year's conference, our goal was to show participants how Rhapsody can be used in a scenario that enables workers to be screened to ensure a safe return to work, while simultaneously reporting out the results of these screens to the state and CDC for analysis and action.
Rhapsody participated in a virtual showcase alongside multiple other vendors and governmental agencies (Michigan Department of Public Health and CDC) detailing out how a given patient can go through the following workflow, which takes an employee in an essential industry (such as meat packing) from self-screening, all the way through reported results. This workflow can be set up by any employer who needs to ensure testing of their workforce is happening quickly and accurately.
- Once per day, a self-screening tool, run on behalf of the employer, sends an automated text message to employees with an upcoming shift.
- Using the self-screening tool, the employee/patient answers a series of questions about recent symptoms and potential exposure (such as travel to hot spots).
- Depending on the outcome of the screen, the patient is either cleared for work or directed to a telemedicine visit with an occupational medicine provider (a doctor/provider whose purpose is keeping the workforce healthy) for further investigation. (In our scenario, patient is directed to a telehealth visit.)
- The telehealth visit occurs, with the patient fully reporting symptoms and vitals, and answering additional “ask on entry” questions. The patient is directed to a private lab for testing.
- An order with all the patient’s information is sent from the provider to the lab via Rhapsody.
- Rhapsody, acting on behalf of the lab, receives an order, extracts the relevant information, and stores it until the result comes in.
- When the result is available, Rhapsody receives the message, extracts relevant details, and makes an API call to the screening tool from Step 1 to receive additional epidemiological information for enriching the message.
- Rhapsody then merges information from the order, result, and enrichment call to build a CDC-Compliant Reportable HL7 2.5.1 ELR message.
- This message is forwarded onto a state public health department, which actions the message locally before finally forwarding onto the CDC’s CELR (COVID Electronic Lab Reporting) solution.
- The CELR application allows for the data to be analyzed, displayed, and reported.
This is one of the workflows that helps feed the CDC the information it needs to accurately and intelligently plan for re-opening the country, and data provided to the CELR system ultimately is published on the page below for public viewing.
I am proud to be a part of an organization that is devoted to contributing to the greater good, especially in times of crisis. I also take pride in the fact that put our money where our mouth is when we say Lyniate is building connections for a healthier world.
For further reading:
- Testing Healthcare Data for COVID-19 Codes
- How Health IT Can Address the Pandemic in a More Meaningful Way
- 3 Recommendations for COVID-19 Interoperability and Data Exchange
- Public Health Interoperability Solutions