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Holiday Magic in the Big Apple: Visions of Connected Care

When I was a little girl, living in a suburb of New York City, one of the big treats of the holiday season was a visit to the city to see the shop windows. That was before stores were homogenous and entertainment was ubiquitous, so the annual displays seemed magical – transforming the ordinary in ways that were truly innovative and imaginative.

The other day, for the first time in years, I once again made a holiday pilgrimage to NYC to view innovation and imagination. But this time I wasn’t gazing in shop windows. Instead, I sat in a conference room on the 13th floor of the NYU Langone Medical Center listening to stories about the ways in which healthcare, and lives, are being transformed through connected health records and the creative use of that information.

We heard about Healthix, the regional health information exchange covering over 10 million people in the NYC area by supporting coordinated care (using InterSystems HealthShare technology!). Dr. Karen Nelson, of the Brooklyn Health Home, told us how her team relies on Clinical Event Notifications from Healthix to know when their chronically ill patients are admitted to a hospital, an emergency room, even to Rikers Island prison, so they can reach out to them and coordinate care.

Mario Schlosser and Mary Ellen Connington, from the innovative Oscar Health Insurance company, spoke about using that same notification functionality to assist their members in real time. Health plans across the U.S. are looking for ways to optimize population health management, but are stymied by stale information. Oscar has harnessed the Healthix information exchange to deploy nurse practitioners on the phone, in the emergency room or even to the hospital bedside to optimize the care process for its members.

We heard from the New York State Department of Health about how in the very near future, the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY) will facilitate information exchange statewide not only for care coordination for individuals, but public health improvements for communities.

But mostly, we heard stories about individual patients, and the difference it makes when care is connected and when the barriers are broken down between social service agencies, care providers, and even the criminal justice system.

My British colleagues call this “Joined Up Care” – coordinating medical services across the healthcare spectrum and reaching out into the wider community. A recent event in London showcased several local examples of joined-up care, including a new initiative linking hospitals with Child Protective Services. Another links health and social care for the Lothian region of Scotland, using interoperability to connect records for health and social services across the entire South Devon and Torbay community.

The Mayor of New York just announced an Action Plan on how to more effectively connect the Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice systems there. The plan recognizes that it is disconnects which so often lead those with serious mental illness and behavioral health issues into encounters with the criminal justice system. It is disconnects like those that Healthix, its partners, and similar innovators around the world are trying to prevent by effectively sharing information so that care can be coordinated.

The shop windows of my childhood were prettier, but the vision of connected care I saw during this year’s holiday visit is a lot more exciting!

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