Opinion | There’s another infrastructure that needs maintained - health information

Tim Pletcher is executive director of Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services

Improving infrastructure — namely “fixing the damn roads” and cleaning up our drinking water — has been among Governor Whitmer’s top campaign promises and is now at the top of her to-do list as she begins her first term as Michigan’s 49th governor.

And while roads and bridges and water and sewer systems are certainly important priorities, Michigan also needs to improve its 21st Century infrastructure — the one that moves and connects information vital to our modern world.

Michigan is already ahead of the curve when it comes to our health information infrastructure. In 2010, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm established Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN) to help Michigan leverage technology and data to improve people’s health, reduce the burden on physicians and government while minimizing unnecessary expense.

In today’s world, data is a vital commodity. MiHIN’s products and services enable patients, healthcare providers, payers and governmental agencies to share data and provide better care, improve operating efficiency and lower costs, reduce errors and help with vital life-saving research throughout Michigan.

The state that leads the way in sharing information with a strong legal and technical infrastructure enables a delivery system that leads the way in providing its residents better health care for less. MiHIN is the key to that here in Michigan.

MiHIN collaborates with stakeholders from the State of Michigan, health information exchanges, health systems and providers, health plans and payers, and pharmacies throughout Michigan. More than 17 million messages and pieces of health information get passed through our system each week, things like admission, discharge and transfer notifications, summary of care documents, lab results, immunization records and more.

This data helps public health leaders monitor disease outbreaks, from the everyday (but sometimes fatal) flu to hepatitis outbreaks. It means someone with two physicians won’t get conflicting pharmaceutical prescriptions or repeat tests.

MiHIN is helping Michigan address its mounting opioid epidemic through its work with the System for Opioid Overdose Surveillance, which helps collect, match and share opioid overdose demographic information. This data can be analyzed and used to develop prevention and response strategies to overdoses through the existing legal and technical infrastructure without redundancies.

Waste in the healthcare system costs the state of Michigan roughly $20 billion per year, 4 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Most of this waste comes from inefficiencies or failures in the system, like putting patients through unnecessary services (like duplicate tests), asking patients to complete multiple forms, excess administrative costs or uncoordinated delivery of care.

MiHIN represents the kind of public-private bipartisan partnership and shared services required to harness the power of the technology revolution to the benefit of all Michiganders.

By supporting MiHIN’s efforts to make our health information work smarter, Gov. Whitmer’s team can ensure people in Michigan have access to quality healthcare and also take positive strides to help control the cost of healthcare so Michigan businesses can compete.

We recommend that the governor make sure this piece of infrastructure is fully funded to maximize its legal and technical infrastructure potential. We also suggest state policies remove barriers to using the system and encourage all healthcare entities to engage, so no patients are left behind because a provider or insurer wants to engage in a siloed system.

We recognize our responsibilities in this matter and have taken steps to keep information secure and private. We work with our partners to constantly monitor and update security measures, so information can be used — but not abused.

Michigan’s position of leadership in this area needs to be maximized, for the health of our citizens and the ability to provide cost-effective treatment for all, and MiHIN is here to move the collective efforts forward for all patients, payers and providers within the state.

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Sun, 03/24/2019 - 11:37am

If Michigan is in the top quartile of health information networks I would hate to see a state from the bottom quartile.

Still, after all the energy, time and dollars spent my doctor's office is it's own little island of data that can't communicate to area hospitals if I'm brought in on an emergency. They share plenty of data with the insurance company, pharmacies, and the insurance industry database of meds and pre-existing conditions but no direct connection to medical specialists.

As well as being required to send faxes of documents instead of encrypted email attachments.

It's still like we are in the 1990s. If we can't standardize languages, formats, etc this is doomed.

Kevin Grand
Sun, 03/24/2019 - 6:09pm

Since when did it become the responsibility of state (or even federal) government to have a hand in any of this?

The state of Michigan cannot even manage its own computer systems properly.




And now people want Michigan Government telling health professionals how to manage their own records?

Sun, 03/24/2019 - 8:05pm

It never ends!!

Tim Pletcher
Wed, 03/27/2019 - 11:49am

You are correct, even Michigan still has work to do on the front lines of healthcare. The Michigan model does employ a public-private approach with a great track record getting the technology right in a way that also aligns incentives to standard approaches.

You put your finger on one of the big issues still lurking about the dependency on the fax machine. Michigan is promoting a health care secure messaging standard called Direct Secure Messaging (see https://www.directtrust.org/). There is a very real opportunity to kill the fax machine, if we can get health plans, government agencies, and large lab providers to use Direct instead of the faxing all the time.