HIMSS 2019: A Lookback

Published February 14, 2019
All the BCBS news from HIMSS19, the Health Information Management Systems Society Global Conference and Exhibition, in Orlando, Florida.


3:45 p.m. Thursday, February 14

Data Rich, Information Poor – But Not for Long

A key theme throughout the HIMSS conference this week has been the need for the healthcare industry to address and achieve interoperability, to ensure that patients and caregivers are able to safely, securely and easily access their complete health history – when and where they need it.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are already working toward that goal. Data is at the heart of those efforts, said Jennifer Vachon, executive vice president, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, in a session Thursday highlighting the barriers to interoperability and the roadmap to achieve it. “It’s part of our DNA,” she said. Leaders from several BCBS companies joined to share their vision for that roadmap.

Consumers of all ages expect to have information as soon as they click a button – and it’s not any different when it comes to their healthcare. While it’s critical that the public and private sectors work together to advance interoperability, it’s just as important that hospitals, health insurers, health information exchanges and others partner with one another and create a trusting relationship. Companies across the healthcare spectrum need to have a framework in place that allows for a secure data exchange, which will lead to better access and patient outcomes for all. 

“We really need every piece of relevant health information available and usable by decision makers – like patients and their caregivers – to have a healthcare system that’s worthy of our loved ones,” said Paul Markovich, Blue Shield of California president and CEO. 

Blue Shield of California partners with Manifest MedEx – California’s largest health information network – to deliver real-time, comprehensive health data to providers and insurers on a secure health information network. And this is just one of the partnerships that BCBS companies have to increase access to healthcare data. 

Independence Blue Cross (Independence BC) was a founding member of HealthShare Exchange, a health information network that includes secure data from more than eight million patients in the Philadelphia region. The Plan has also established a trusted relationship with the University of Pennsylvania’s medical system to securely exchange health information between health insurer and hospitals. This has resulted in lower readmission rates and savings of around $20 million, according to Independence BC CEO and President Daniel J. Hilferty. 

“We’re on a journey, and we made a decision to do it and to do it together,” said Hilferty. “In our own marketplace, we are being true to our mission to put the consumer at the center of their care.” 

Advancing interoperability is a nationwide effort. In Tennessee more than 3,000 providers regularly share electronic medical records in a standardized format with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BCBS Tennessee). This is done through a secure portal that also provides physicians with analytics to help identify gaps in care.  

The bi-directional exchange of information is one of the things that will help pave the way for patients to truly be at the center of their care, with the access they not only want, but that they need. 

“As long as we’re offering the data and making it available, then I think that’s immensely valuable to the consumer,” said JD Hickey, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee president and CEO.

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Access to data is a critical element of interoperability and the secure exchange of health data. But when we hear this common buzzword, it leads to questions: Who should have access? How do we get access? One of the core principles across Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies is that there should be a seamless flow of healthcare data, allowing patients and their caregivers to access their health information whenever and wherever they need it, enabling better care management and improving patient outcomes. But how do we get there? 

Providing Greater Patient Access to Drive Patient Outcomes
One way to drive patient access to their data and deliver better care and outcomes is through the seamless exchange of data across the healthcare ecosystem. An important piece of this is providing health insurers with greater access to health information exchanges (HIEs), according to Kari Hedges, senior vice president, Commercial Markets and Enterprise Data Solutions at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). Hedges discussed the importance of data access at HIMSS this week, along with Martin Lupinetti of Healthshare Exchange and Thomas Novak with the Office of the National Coordinator. Health insurers have the opportunity through HIE data to learn what may or may not work for patients, and to create meaningful solutions that address social determinants of health and improve chronic care management. 

“We have to have access to the data in order to see if the programs we have in place are effective in driving patient outcomes,” said Hedges. “And analytics is absolutely at the heart of that.” 

Greater access and the establishment of a seamless data exchange will lead to better patient outcomes in every community. “Data is essential in determining a patient’s journey to health,” said Mark Talluto, BCBSA’s vice president, Strategy and Analytics. 

Developing Strategic Partnerships
This is why BCBS companies are not just partnering with HIEs, but with technology companies as well that are focused on helping patients manage their chronic conditions better. At HIMSS this week Talluto highlighted the importance of diabetes and the innovative technology that’s making it possible for patients to manage the disease more effectively. For example, BCBSA is working with Onduo, a software application that provides diabetes patients with access to personalized, convenient diabetes care.  

This pilot is showing promising results, highlighting that with greater access to data and analytics, it’s possible to improve outcomes and make healthcare work more efficiently for patients in every community. “Our goal is to manage chronic conditions and see how solutions in different markets are addressing and assessing what’s working,” Talluto said.

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