Author: Kevin Horahan, J.D., M.P.H., NRP, Senior Policy Analyst, Office of Policy and Planning, HHS ASPR and Rachel Abbey, M.P.H., Program Analyst, Office of State and Community Programs, HHS ONC
Making sure that the everyday emergency care system works efficiently so that it is better positioned to handle large scale events is an important issue for us in HHS, particularly in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
Over the past few years the health system has transitioned from a primarily paper and pencil to an electronic environment with more than half of doctors’ offices and almost 60 percent of hospitals using EHRs. More and more health information exchanges (HIEs) are becoming the norm to assist providers to exchange critical and potentially lifesaving health information.
Because EMS providers are an important component of the healthcare system they should have access to these resources and the ability to include their patient encounter data into these systems.
To that end, ASPR’s Emergency Care Coordination Center (ECCC) and ONC recently convened a unique session on Health Information Exchanges & the Pre-Hospital Environment. This meeting of the minds brought together deep thinkers from the emergency care and emergency medical services community, emergency care software vendors, and government agencies, to wade through issues and successes surrounding connectivity to health information exchanges.
Representatives from ASPR, ONC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and EMS agencies from across the country shared their experiences with health information technology (health IT) in the emergency care environment. The meeting featured a robust agenda including an overview of health IT and HIE and a review of technology standards and the Standards & Interoperability framework.
The event also included a review of the National Emergency Medical System Information System (NEMSIS) and a discussion of health IT pilot projects from around the country. People networked (no pun intended), shared ideas, and presented concerns about health IT with other emergency care and EMS organizations, as well as with the government agencies responsible for implementing the health information exchanges.
The meeting proved to be more than just a great discussion. It helped to strengthen the partnership between ASPR, ONC, and EMS. Recently, ONC released a report that assesses opportunities in California and the Gulf Coast to use health information exchange to support disaster preparedness and EMS response. One of the recommended use case scenarios from the report was for ONC to pursue EMS data exchange with hospitals. Just last week, a joint ASPR/ONC proposal for funding from the HHS IdeaLab was awarded to begin some foundational work on these recommendations.
As a result of the HIE & Pre-hospital meeting, ASPR launched a Collaboration Community on IdeaScale with the first campaign dedicated to the EMS/health IT issues discussed at the meeting. We expect to use this community to continue the conversation, to inform others about important EMS issues, and to insure that they are included as a part of the healthcare system, especially as it relates to health IT.
Get involved. Share your comments and ideas through our collaboration community.