By Diete Dobroski

As we’re wrapping up another Stage 1 Meaningful Use attestation, the provider turns and asks, “How am I to communicate with the guy down the street…you know, the specialist that I refer 90 percent of my patients to?” 

It’s one of the more common questions we get as we work with those practices facing Stage 2 Meaningful Use and the new care transition requirements. For providers to remain meaningful users in the coming years, they must begin electronically transmitting a summary of care document when referring their patients. To a small, independent practice, this capability may only seem possible with Harry Potter-style magic, but in reality, you only need know the magic words to use when speaking with your EHR vendor to get on the right track. So we could conjure a little Harry Potter magic, and say, “Expelliarmus!” But, let’s break it down first. 

Think back to the mobile phones of the 'old days' – remember how you could only call those who were on your same network or within your ‘circle of friends?’ Now apply that thought to health information exchange (HIE) - your vendor may only have the ability to exchange data with providers who are on your same electronic health record (EHR) system or they may have a ‘circle’ of vendors that have agreed to exchange data. In some cases, an EHR vendor may decide to partner with a Health Information Service Provider (HISP) to transport data. A HISP may include even more vendors that have all agreed to exchanging data thus expanding your ‘circle of friends’ even further. 

Vendors will vary in how they integrate this technology, and providers may also have the option to choose a third party such as their state’s HIE. 

If you’re a provider or organization who is just beginning to sort all this out, begin a dialogue with your EHR vendor as soon as possible. Some of the ‘magic’ questions you’ll need to ask include:

·         What integration will be available for data exchange?

·         When will these functionalities be available?

·         Will this be a standard offer or will the vendor work with third parties?

·         Who will you be able to exchange data with - the same vendor or other vendors? 

·         Will there be a provider directory?

·         Will there be a choice as to what companies fill these roles?

·         Will there be additional costs?

Knowing where your vendor stands and how they will continue to meet your needs is essential to your success so again, “Expelliarmus!” Cast the disarming spell and start safely freeing data from the confines of your office.