Bringing focus and experience to the HIE discussion

I'd like to believe that wherever you live in the United States, your community, regional or state health information exchange (HIE) is becoming a household name these days, but frankly, we all know better. For many — even clinical professionals — the term "HIE" is still widely unknown or simply misunderstood. And while HIEs have come a long way in the past years, we still have a long way to go to serve you best. My hope is that this blog will peel back those issues that distance us from HIE activity and begin to discuss it in a way that makes sense to everyone — especially you.

As a member of the team of one of the first HIEs in the nation, I will be able to share a little about our experiences, lessons learned and visions for the future. The work of an HIE is a moving target, and if I have learned anything in my past few years on the team here at the Michiana Health Information Network (MHIN), it is that the health information technology (HIT) industry is constantly changing. It's an exciting — though understandably often overwhelming — time to practice medicine. With this, it is my sincere hope that the discussions that take place here are not only informative on the subject of HIEs but also enlightening in the sense that you might think differently about a concept each time you visit this page.

In order to contextualize my experience and position in the industry a bit more, please accept a brief history of MHIN. MHIN was founded by a group of local physicians and healthcare organizations in northern Indiana who envisioned a community where providers might be able to share a central data repository with person-focused health histories specific to each patient. Incorporated in 1998, long before the term HIE even existed, MHIN began its journey toward this goal. For the past 13 years, our faithful commitment to our community has remained the same — work toward putting 100 percent of the patient's information in the hands of the provider at the time of care.

Though I can't speak for every HIE sprouting up throughout the nation, those of us at MHIN believe that this commitment is the essence of health information exchange activity. This week, I had the pleasure of sharing these and other thoughts with many other HIEs and healthcare organizations across the U.S. at the eHealth Initiative's 2012 Annual Conference Cancer, Diabetes, and Heart Disease: Improving Care Through eHealth in Washington, DC.

For 10 years now, the eHealth Initiative has been facilitating meetings and fostering some of the most important conversations around HIT. The annual conference is always a unique opportunity to learn about national trends from the year prior but also to gain a sense of where we are headed as a nation with HIT in the year to come. This year, one theme seemed most apparent throughout the conference and accurately reflects the same trends we are seeing here in the Midwest. The momentum of HIT innovations will continue to push all of us in the industry outside of our comfort zone — and that's a good thing. Today, as HIEs, we must clearly assert our efforts toward moving the data where you, the healthcare providers, need it to be, through whatever channel necessary. And the payoff for that will be huge — bigger than the $44,000 federal Meaningful Use incentive payment, even. It will enable a new level of informed care, which in turn will trigger fantastic new levels of patients' engagement in their own healthcare and analytics possibilities that will transform the way we look at public health issues. And that's just the beginning.

Check back here with me every two weeks to dive deeper into these topics. I'll take a closer look at some of the model HIEs in the nation, use a critical eye on things we might be doing better, attempt to explain the developments in areas ranging from technology to policy that change the way we do business, and most importantly, help you see the value of working with an HIE in your practice.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Let me know what you want to talk about. Ask me questions. Tell me new stories. Contact me any time at .

Hannah King currently works as the marketing and communications coordinator for the Michiana Health Information Network. In this role, Hannah manages community development in the Midwest region with a focus on marketing, communications and public relations. Most recently, she has begun leading MHIN in clinical research and public health management initiatives in collaboration with the greater healthcare community in northern Indiana. In addition to blogging on the HIE perspective for PhysBizTech, Hannah also hosts a blog with MHIN called HIE Talk in a MHIN-ute. You can find her work at She received her Bachelor's Degree in English Creative Writing and a second Bachelor's Degree in Communication both from Loyola University Chicago.