With a coverage area that spans 75 Texas counties, 40 Louisiana parishes, and more than 15 million patients, Greater Houston Healthconnect (GHH) is one of the largest health information exchanges (HIEs) in the United States. Such a broad network means there’s never a shortage of data.
“But we don’t receive healthy data from any of those sources,” says Nick Bonvino, the HIE’s chief executive. For Bonvino and GHH, turning the network’s bountiful information into healthy data — data that’s normalized, deduplicated, complete, usable, and useful — is about delivering critical insights from the public health level all the way to the point of care.
The task is never more important — or more difficult — than during a still-raging pandemic. When COVID-19 first hit U.S. shores, GHH leveraged its interoperable network, powered by InterSystems HealthShare®, to monitor symptoms and complexes before the condition even had a diagnosis code. The HIE used HealthShare to support public health departments across the region, ensuring that even the smallest communities could perform pivotal case investigations and contact tracing. Since then, Bonvino and GHH have launched a public-private collaborative, led by the University of Texas School of Public Health, to take that surveillance a step further and push toward two goals: better COVID-19 research and a unified patient record at the point of care.
Since the partnership’s inception, the HIE’s technology has organized and analyzed clinical data from an initial cohort of 10,000 patients, a number that has blossomed to more than 1 million.
The spread of additional cases and new variants also created the need to derive insights from this new data. Thanks to HealthShare, that data is transportable into researchers’ and clinicians’ native environments, where they’re using it to make informed decisions about how to handle the pandemic’s latest challenges and prepare for whatever comes next. The unified care record also enabled researchers and public health workers alike to follow COVID-positive patients’ journeys through the healthcare system, including clinical encounters, hospitalizations, and outcomes.
Now, by monitoring admission-discharge-transfer feeds averaging 18 per second, Bonvino’s team provides a window into COVID-19’s geographic and demographic spread across the HIE’s expansive coverage area in real time. GHH uses patient matching technology to uniquely identify each individual. Public health experts and specialists in infectious disease, cardiology, pulmonology, hematology, and more tap into dashboards to understand the relationship between COVID-19 infection and other health conditions.
Of course, the work performed by the HIE and its partners isn’t merely interesting. Clinicians use their expanded understanding of COVID-19 to guide better decisions at the point of care.
It’s only possible, Bonvino notes, with healthy data.
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This story originally appeared the HealthShare Connections News Flash No.7 – October 26, 2021