Interoperability through the Ages

First it was the claim files. Then it was HIPAA (which really, was claim files). Now it’s Meaningful Use, or maybe HIE and Health Homes. However you look at it, Behavioral Health has been banging on this door for decades.

The very first systems that tracked clinical data for Behavioral Health organizations were developed to make filing claims to Medicaid easier and less leaky…promising nonprofits that their revenues would increase more than enough to justify the cost because the computer wouldn’t miss any services, the way a person might.

HIPAA was supposed to be a revolution in the way electronic data was exchanged between service provider and funder, but of course, the Feds didn’t have the courage of their convictions and allowed states to define some elements of the 837 file on their own. Still, though, it was a different world that HIPAA made.

And so here we are again. Meaningful Use has required all EHR vendors to be able to transmit a Continuity of Care Document (CCD) in a particular way. And now HIEs and Health Homes are looking to piggyback on that work by creating communities of care around the exchange of standardized data files.

What’s next? My bet is that the Direct Project protocol will be the next one everyone talks about because it allows providers to share information directly with each other rather than going through a central hub. The allure is palpable.

At Foothold, we’re already helping providers achieve interoperability and be able to share data with whatever their new Health Home / HIE is, and are working on the Direct Project simultaneously. We are also sending data to the NY State Substance Abuse Client Data System, we do HIPAA-compliant electronic billing in multiple states, and we are moving data around several of our state and city-wide HMIS installations. The point is, this is a big shift, and it’s one you need to participate in and ready yourself for. But it isn’t the end of the world – in 5 years’ time, we’ll all be talking about whatever the latest interface technology is; and your EHR vendor, if they’re any good, will be right there with you.