At the August ONC Tech Forum, Dr. Donald Rucker, National Coordinator for Health IT, mentions the value and importance of HIEs in the pandemic response.

Dr. Rucker’s opening discussion for the forum reminded everyone of the interoperability and patient access rules and where we might be today if this effort was completed three to four years ago.

“It’s interesting when you think about it,” said Rucker. “If this rule had come out three or four years ago, and all these APIs were up, our ability to deal with a pandemic would actually be materially different and much better as we look at telehealth and remote [monitoring], and patient engagement, and patient empowerment.”

Rucker then went on to speak about the value of HIEs and the crucial role they play in coordinating the pandemic response.

“Most of the country is now covered with health information exchanges, and they really are a good way to have central store,” he explained. “Some of them federate the data and the messages out to the various providers as needed, as they’re taking care of patients. And in that world, that can provide one-stop shopping for providers on reporting.”

“That one-stop shopping on reporting is, I think, going to be important,” he added. “We have right now, obviously, a lot of different mandated reporting because of the pandemic. But I think over time we can move to that more integrated reporting where then the public health agencies get a feed from the HIEs. We’re not there yet, but I think that’s a big opportunity.”

For instance, he said, “for a lot of questions, the HIEs have longitudinal data. That’s really very powerful to answer a set of clinical questions that goes beyond things like how many tests were done or how many people are in an ICU.”

“The longitudinal data can answer questions like, ‘What’s the time course from when somebody turns positive to when the test turns negative? The shape of the curve over the population, from when folks turn positive to [when] they develop immunity? What is the rate of reinfection? What are associated complications?’ I think there are some very powerful things that are possible in this HIE world.”

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