How Nebraska’s HIE Is Leveraging Real-Time Data to Improve Maternal, Postpartum Health

Health information exchanges (HIEs) ensure the secure mobilization of electronic health information across organizations within a region. Each state in the country has an HIE, and some even have more than one.

HIEs, which can be public or private, are meant to enable more effective care that better meets patients’ unique needs. They have been around for a couple decades, but results are mixed when it comes to their success. The next generation of HIEs must think beyond the transfer of information and explore how they can use real-time health data to improve population health outcomes, according to Jamie Bland, the president and CEO of CyncHealth.

CyncHealth is Nebraska’s designated statewide HIE and prescription monitoring program. The nonprofit became a statewide HIE in 2012, Bland said in an interview.

“If you think about how people access healthcare, as well as the differences in electronic health records and how they have evolved over the past 20 years, what we’re really trying to do is connect data to the person,” she declared.

With CyncHealth, a person’s health information follows them throughout their healthcare journey. When it’s appropriate for a provider to seek their information (perhaps for treatment or a check-in), their data is available as a health history. CyncHealth also provides citizens with their longitudinal health information, according to Bland.

“Having data follow the person is important for patient safety outcomes, care coordination and just really looking at population health overall,” she said.

A key way that CyncHealth is seeking to improve population health outcomes is through a program it launched six months ago in Omaha to improve health and equity in maternal and postpartum care. Under the program, CyncHealth coordinates a secure data exchange amongst key healthcare stakeholders such as Medicaid, hospitals, clinics, federally qualified health centers, primary care providers, OB-GYNs and substance use disorder clinics. 

The program is designed to identify mothers and infants who are in need of care. The pilot identifies high-risk patients based on a wide variety of factors — including race, ethnicity, ZIP code and medical history — and it contacts providers so they can design a holistic care plan for their high-risk patients.

CyncHealth’s program for maternal and postpartum care also keeps providers informed about their patients’ real-time health data. For instance, let’s say a pregnant woman goes to the emergency department because she feels dizzy and is then diagnosed with high blood pressure. CyncHealth would notify all her treating providers to ensure they perform appropriate follow-up care. Interventions like these are important, as hypertension is a huge factor that contributes to maternal morbidity.

“This is a newer program, so we don’t have longitudinal data just yet. But what we hope to see in the data is that [adverse] outcomes — whether they be postpartum complications, or issues that could lead to death like in a pulmonary embolism or hemorrhaging after childbirth — can can be followed up on more rapidly than without this type of information exchange,” Bland said.

CyncHealth plans to keep this program running in the future, according to Bland. To measure its impact, she said the nonprofit will track how many notifications it sends to providers and how many were acted upon. CyncHealth will also look at how maternal mortality and morbidity data changes over time in Omaha.

This summer, HHS recognized CyncHealth’s Omaha program as one of the top 25 winners of Phase I of its health equity-focused postpartum care challenge. 

“That recognition is really just underscoring the work that we’ve done to build a broad health information network,” Bland said. “When you have that foundation, you can really start to improve population health because it takes a data exchange to be able to react more quickly to information.”

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