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Finding order in provider directory for health information exchange

Directed exchange is one meaningful use mandate. Policymakers are exploring how the provider directory could be used to facilitate seamless health information exchange.

While one federal workgroup considers governance of health information exchange (HIE), another task force is studying ways to identify and manage those providers participating in data sharing.

The Provider Directory Task Force focuses on standardizing methods of directed exchange, one of the key components of meaningful use criteria for various transactions, such as delivering lab results and patient summaries. Providers must be able to demonstrate they can exchange information electronically, and states must establish operational HIEs that can receive and disseminate that data.

The task force, which is part of the Information Exchange Workgroup of the federal Health IT Policy Committee, is looking at establishing a "yellow pages" list and a routing directory. The provider directory would list and identify participating providers, while the routing directory would manage the flow of information in an HIE.

We have a tremendous need to both disambiguate individual doctors and networks.

Sid Thornton, senior medical informaticist, Intermountain Healthcare Inc.

Standardizing the context of information flow and the way HIE stakeholders are identified would benefit health care organizations and states that are rolling out exchanges, according to professionals who testified in front of the task force last week.

"We have a tremendous need to both disambiguate individual doctors and networks," said Sid Thornton, senior medical informaticist with Intermountain Healthcare Inc. in Salt Lake City. Standardizing how providers, from clinicians to nursing staff, are affiliated with organizations would allow greater detail in the electronic capture of information for patient summaries.

That level of specificity in data capture makes the information overall more relevant and meaningful to stakeholders using the HIE, said Greg DeBor, partner with the health care group of Computer Science Corp., where he helped to establish the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN).

NEHEN uses a central community-provider directory through which participants maintain their own information and control preferences for who in the exchange receives information and how they use it. That makes the difference in how useful the information will be in the exchange, DeBor said. "The richer entry they make means the searching for their entities becomes richer too, and that's really where the routing and yellow pages overlap."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Jean DerGurahian, News Writer.

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