What is the state of Clinical Data Exchange for Health Plans?

By: Lesley Brown, SVP Product Management at Halfpenny Technologies

As health care in the U.S. evolves, health plans and other risk bearing entities such as ACOs, have shown an ever increasing desire to acquire clinical data for their members.   This need is fast becoming more than a necessity, as value based care begins to drive reimbursements, revenue adjustment factors and quality performance, to name just a few.   While many health plans already have access to select quantities of clinical data (think Lab results, maybe even ADT data) their appetite is now evolving towards obtaining member Continuity of Care (CCD) data.  CCD is now heralded as the “superset” of clinical data, all the medical history, test results, medications for a member in one document.

Too bad then that the coordination and exchange of this clinical data from physician practice EHRs has become a significant pain point for many health plans and clinical data integration into payer systems has made minimal advancement in the past few years.  The challenges that health plans need to overcome range from technical ones, a lack of real clinical interoperability despite Meaningful Use (MU) Stage 2 and HL7 C-CDA requirements & specifications, to business ones, often a lack of clear business value and use case evaluation can stymie the best of endeavors.

Where and how to start?  Some of the common approaches payers can take for clinical data integration include building out point to point integrations (but who has time or resources for that!), accessing a state or local HIE (this is often limited by HIEs demands for standard data structures as well as a lack of data normalization) or partnering with one of a wide variety of vendors who claim they can facilitate non-claims based clinical data integration (many of whom fall short when attempts to validate data exchange are attempted).  Regardless of the integration arrangement health plans should be advised to start small and stay focused, successful data exchange projects have a value proposition and can demonstrate cost savings or increased revenue.  Examples include, risk adjustment factors that could benefit from the diagnosis list contained in a physician practice medical record or replacement of expensive chart reviews with defined data elements from an EHR.

Halfpenny Technologies (HTI) has been in the clinical data exchange business for more than 15 years and over that time have built reusable interfaces that connect to 90%+ of the top EHR vendors and LIS/HIS systems.  HTI’s vendor agnostic approach allows the receipt of any EHR or LIS data format and in return health plans can receive clinical data in the layout of their choice. Halfpenny Technologies’ continued investment in innovative solutions has uniquely positioned the company as a national provider of clinical data exchange solutions to the health care industry.

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When Splitting Up is for the Best

Centralizing. One-stop-shopping. Consolidating. Sole sourcing. Streamlining. All of these actions have one common denominator; unifying a set of activities under one umbrella. Why not? It’s easier, more convenient, and should be cost effective, right? Maybe, but perhaps not when it comes to hospitals, labs, and physicians needing their lab orders to be routed to more than one testing laboratory for various legit reasons.

Ordering lab tests can be a complex process, even within a health network. Oftentimes a single lab order should be divided into two or more requisitions. The reasons can be many. The physician’s office can perform one or more of the tests in the office. The insurance company requires the separation. It’s most cost effective to send one of the tests to an outside lab. The order needs to go to a third-party subcontracted by the first lab. The provider prefers to bill insurance companies directly in order to obtain markup revenue, regardless if test is or is not conducted in their office. Hence, this is definitely an instance when splitting up is for the better.

Since test results from labs due influence nearly 70% of all healthcare decisions made today while representing only 2% of total healthcare costs, hospitals, labs, and physicians should have the choice and flexibility of splitting a requisition when needed. But let’s throw another monkey wrench, so to speak, into the mix while we’re at it. Does the hospital, lab, or physician office have an existing electronic health record (EHR) system in operation to automate and streamline the clinician’s workflow, reduce any errors and offset costs? What happens when there is an EHR system in place? What happens when there isn’t? How does an EHR system facilitate splitting an order? Better yet, how do you split a requisition without an EHR system?

Questions, questions, and more questions. Well, here are some answers.

The best action is to provide hospitals, labs and physician offices with a simple way to divide a single lab order into two or multiple, with or without an EHR system. A foolproof method to automatically split orders right from the start, during order entry and based rules on sample type, storage temperature, testing location, test type, order location, billing status, CPT code, order choice priority or type, insurance, physician preference and/or other measures.

Halfpenny Technologies (HTI), a leading provider of healthcare connectivity and integration solutions, offers hospitals, labs and physicians the means to split a single lab req into two or more requisitions with or without an existing physician EHR system. This capability is not only priceless, but essential as most physicians utilize multiple labs and route their test orders in accordance with the patient’s insurance, type of tests required, billing practices, or their own preferences.

Here’s how Halfpenny generates split requisitions. With an EHR system, Halfpenny receives the lab order from the EHR and automatically splits it according to rules controlled by authorized users and then prints specific labels, requisitions, and/or manifests as needed and routes the orders to the correct testing laboratory based on the hospital or physician’s workflow requirements. When the results are received, Halfpenny re-bundles and forwards them into the appropriate patient record within the EHR.

When there is not a physician EHR system, Halfpenny will implement one of its own proprietary solutions, ITF-Portal® or ITF-GoDoc® MobileOE, to facilitate the order entry directly and split the req utilizing the same rules described above. Either way, the split successfully occurs and the results can be combined and incorporated into an EHR system if available or viewed within one or both of the HTI solutions.

Splitting up a req to be routed to the correct testing laboratory is not only in the best interest of hospitals, labs, and physicians, but in the long run it’s also in the best interest of the patient who receives better care and better patient services. It saves valuable time, unnecessary costs and precious manpower. If you are still sole sourcing your lab orders to one facility, look a little further to the many benefits and advantages of splitting up a requisition. You might realize that breaking up is not so hard to do after all.