Rural health care providers now have a free help center, of sorts, for figuring out health information exchange (HIE) issues as they navigate the new territory. The National Rural Health Resource Center, a division of HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has announced the release of a new rural health information exchange (HIE) toolkit and website which provides an overview of compliance requirements for HIPAA and other rules and regulations pertinent to rural health stakeholders, including State Offices of Rural Health and Flex Programs, rural hospitals and clinics, critical access hospitals (CAHs), rural health networks, and others.
Help for these types of providers is especially crucial, as patients may be travelling across various health care systems and even great distances and their information may be scattered. There are approximately 3800 rural health clinics throughout the United States all dealing with similar issues. Patient information must be easily accessible and healthcare providers must learn how to share. This new tool kit provides an excellent first stop providing help to these clinics. It includes:
- Forming or Joining a Health Information Exchange–First Considerations: This guide is a good first stop for rural providers, as it covers the first steps in forming or joining an HIE. Provided in the document is a readiness self-assessment tool designed around governance, sustainability, technology, legal and policy, provider adoption, evaluation and consumer engagement domains.
- Health Information Exchange Return on Investment (ROI) Calculator: Potential savings as well as the costs of implementing an electronic health record (EHR) and a health information exchange (HIE) may be calculated using this tool. The NRHRC lists the proper sources with each calculation.
- Health Information Exchange DIRECT Guide: This guide gives providers DIRECT connectivity standards, and is designed to assist with understanding and implementing health information exchange using DIRECT protocols. The guide includes descriptions of technologies used, a glossary of terms and recommendations on implementing DIRECT.
- Health Information Exchange Policy Matrix: This tool includes “policy models” adapted from The Connecting for Health Common Framework. Providers can find policy suggestions here, which are from section P2: Model Privacy Policies and Procedures for Health Information Exchange. There are several useful tools for health information exchange (HIE); P2 contains much of the necessary policy and procedure language needed for an HIE.
- Privacy and Security Overview and Resource List: The privacy and security requirements providers need to use when participating in an HIE are covered in this guide. It also includes a list of HIPAA-related resources so that rural health care providers are able to stay on top of current on regulatory changes.
The HIE Toolkit was developed through the Rural Health Information Technology Network Development (RHITND) Program, which is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (HRSA, DHHS) through a contract to the National Rural Health Resource Center. HIE is among the requirements for Stage 2 of the HITECH Act electronic health record incentive program, which begins in 2014.