Record Numbers of Patients and Providers Go Digital to Share Medical Records in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Southern Tier of New York

As the public grows weary of filling out paperwork and reciting their medical histories to every new physician they see, more and more patients are embracing a digital solution. HealthlinkNY, which securely connects Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Southern Tier hospitals, medical practices, laboratories, long-term care facilities, and other providers to the regional Health Information Exchange (HIE), reports that a record number of patients have consented to share HIE records. Last year, 480,191 patients consented to give providers access to their health records in HealthlinkNY, a 65% gain over 2016, for a total of 1,220,015 patient consents by the end of 2017.
 
 
Providers, too, are rapidly linking to HealthlinkNY. In 2017, HealthlinkNY signed 114 new participation agreements, an increase of 65.5% from 2016. Now, 288 separate provider organizations participate in the HealthlinkNY HIE, with many organizations having multiple sites and practices within their health system. Much of 2017’s growth came from long-term care facilities, which more than doubled from 42 to 85 participants; home care agencies, which tripled from 11 to 38; and behavioral health agencies, which nearly doubled from 68 to 122.
 
“Our goal is to make medical records available wherever patients receive care,” explains Staci Romeo, Interim Executive Director of HealthlinkNY. “When patients give their consent, all of the providers involved in their care—hospitals, specialists, nursing homes, mental health practices, and others—can securely access their complete medical records, no matter where they are stored locally.” She adds that since HealthlinkNY is connected to the SHIN-NY, the Statewide Health Information Network of New York, “Patient medical records are available to healthcare providers wherever patients travel in New York State.”
 
Providers See the Complete Picture
 
As more and more providers connect to HealthlinkNY, and more patients allow their records to be shared, HealthlinkNY’s ability to help improve healthcare quality and efficiency grows.
 
1. HealthlinkNY gives providers quick and easy access to all the pieces of their patient’s entire medical history. Providers don’t have to rely on their patients’ memories; instead they can look up prior hospitalizations, discharge records, lab reports, diagnostic images, medications, and treatments. With that data in hand, clinicians can make more informed medical decisions.
 
2. Clinicians are more likely to order fewer tests, which saves money and spares patients from unnecessary evaluations.
 
3. Providers can come to a diagnosis more quickly because they don’t have to wait for records to be faxed. Treatment can begin sooner for patients. A study released last year confirmed that linking providers to a patient’s complete medical history information does improve healthcare quality and efficiency. The study found that when emergency department physicians looked up their patients’ records in the HealthlinkNY HIE, patient length of stay was reduced by 7%; the odds of readmission within 30 days declined by 4.5%; and the likelihood of consultations by multiple physicians fell 12%.
 
HealthlinkNY Is Growing, Too
 
HealthlinkNY itself is growing. It now has 42 staff members, up from 29 in December 2016. The organization also is using its health information technology expertise to develop new services. For example, HealthlinkNY is beginning to cull through doctors’ notes to identify undiagnosed cases of Lyme disease. In partnership with public health departments, HealthlinkNY plans to analyze patient glucose readings to detect cases of prediabetes that physicians may miss, so that public health departments can connect patients to diabetes prevention programs.
 
At the same time, HealthlinkNY is taking further steps to keep its data secure. It is strengthening security protocols as it pursues HITRUST certification, the highest level of health information cybersecurity currently available. “Patients and providers can trust us to safeguard HIE data, and keep it safe and secure,” Mrs. Romeo says.
 
This year, HealthlinkNY will continue to work with providers and patients to increase the amount of data stored in the HIE. “A robust HIE has to have a lot of data available for providers to use,” Mrs. Romeo says. “Increasingly, provider organizations see that sharing patient data leads to better outcomes, lower costs, and a better patient experience. Our job is to make sharing data easy for them.”
 
About HealthlinkNY
 
HealthlinkNY is a Qualified Entity (QE), funded by the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH), which operates the Health Information Exchange (HIE) connecting providers and patients in 13 counties in the Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Southern Tier of New York. The HealthlinkNY HIE offers electronic access to patients’ community-wide health records and serves as the region’s access point to the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY), supporting collaboration between healthcare providers across the state. As the region’s hub of health information and improvement, HealthlinkNY supports healthcare delivery reform (DSRIP) and fosters collaboration among public and private health plans. Through the HealthlinkNY Community Network, the organization also operates population health improvement programs (PHIPs) in the Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier of New York.
 
The HealthlinkNY HIE allows all of a patient’s participating providers to safely and securely access the patient’s medical records with the patient’s consent throughout New York State. With HealthlinkNY, providers have a clearer picture of their patient’s health history, including primary care visits, hospital records, discharge orders, ER visits, specialist consultations, lab and imaging reports, behavioral health services, long-term care records, and home care visits.