A pair of bills introduced in the Michigan Legislature in late October would create a state-designated health data utility (HDU) to combine, enhance and exchange electronic health data for various purposes, including treatment, care coordination , improve quality and public health.
State Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), chairwoman of the House Health Policy Committee, introduced House Bill 5823 alongside Vice Chair Minority State Rep. Curt VanderWall’s (R-Ludington) HB 5824. Lawmakers said the bills went beyond health. Information exchange model currently operated by the Michigan Health Information Network (MiHIN) shared services. Implementing an HDU provides an opportunity to modernize Michigan’s public health data collection and ensure near-instantaneous and secure sharing of medical records with health care providers.
The health data utility model is emerging in many states. As Health Innovation reported in July 2023, the State of Maryland designated CRISP as the state’s health data utility. State law requires CRISP to provide real-time data to individuals and organizations involved in the treatment and coordination of patient care and to public health agencies. The legislation also required the Maryland Department of Health, nursing homes, electronic health networks, and prescription drug dispensers to provide data to the state-designated HIE. The story noted that similar efforts are underway in Missouri and Michigan, while California is working on its own version of a required data-sharing framework.
Tim Pletcher, executive director of MiHIN, said Innovation in health that the conversations he has with the legislators in Michigan have changed dramatically in recent years and there is a greater openness to the importance of a utility model of health data. “I think COVID has made some things easier,” he said. “Covid was basically a 9/11 equivalent for social services and equity and a lot of what we do in public health. There was a lack of infrastructure and a lack of coordination. People who weren’t used to working with their HIE resources duplicate and waste a lot of time. I think the health data utility will be very much a model for economies of scale.”
Pletcher adds that by looking through siloed legacy systems, most state and county social services programs can’t tell if it’s the same person. “We HIEs have been struggling with patient matching for years and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. Some of us have even moved on to doing consent and other hard issues. It’s going to take a decade to do that if you don’t build on this infrastructure. We want to build on these core utility services to do more and more.”
Once you start looking at things like SNAP, services for children, and doing a better job of preventing people from getting sick, it’s much broader than just the social determinants of health, Pletcher said. “It’s a complete cross-sectoral infrastructure. Suddenly, we understand that we need a utility.”
Pletcher added that transparency is a key issue as health data utilities reach stakeholders beyond traditional health system partners. “As we expand into these other cross-sectoral areas, it cannot be dominated by health plans or large hospitals. Governance, especially the operational governance of things, must evolve. I think that comes with more funding from the sector public. The trick will be to do this in a way where politics doesn’t overshadow the ability to execute.”
“Most of us have experienced a family member or find ourselves in situations where our medical team flies blind without a complete picture of our medical history, including the medications we have, allergies we may have and surgical procedures in our history. Often, medical decisions are based on limited information that can literally have life and death consequences,” Rogers said in a statement. “These bills strengthen the existing framework that has already been established in Michigan under MiHIN and are a significant step forward in ensuring that comprehensive health data is shared seamlessly, regardless of the health care setting, so that the whole person can be assessed and treated in one way. a comprehensive and individualized way.”
The bills have been referred to the House Health Policy Committee.
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