All 71 hospitals in New Jersey contribute information about patient admissions, discharges and transfers to the New Jersey Health Information Network (NJHIN). In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic they all recognize the importance of providing healthcare providers and other stakeholders across the state with complete and accurate data, and are committed to making quality data a priority.
The NJHIN is the only network that has been built specifically to facilitate the exchange of patient data for all New Jersey patients with their healthcare providers. It is owned by the NJ Department of Health. The NJHIN is unique in that it can connect directly to New Jersey’s public health registries, allowing it to maintain a statewide patient identifying system. The goal of this information sharing and increased interoperability is to reduce the cost of healthcare and improve patient health by leveraging the network for a variety of situations, called “use-cases.”
Hospital alerts were the first use-case rolled out when the NJHIN became fully operational. Today, all 71 hospitals submit information about hospital admissions. Any physician who signs up for the service receives a notification when one of his or her patients is admitted or discharged from the hospital. In this manner, the physician is able to proactively follow up to make sure they receive the care they need during and after their hospital visit.
In order for this to work, hospitals and other participants in the NJHIN, such as long-term care facilities, physicians, substance-use-disorder treatment organizations and other specialty groups must agree to share basic data about patients, including name, address, date of birth and gender. The NJHIN infrastructure includes a reliable way for that basic patient data to be matched so information transfers from one provider to another automatically and securely.
A unique identifier is maintained for each patient to ensure ongoing matches and information sharing. The alerts and transfers of information about matched patients flow through the NJHIN and include the reason for their admission and/or discharge, the names of attending medical staff, and insurance information.
Sharing healthcare information between disparate systems is difficult. However, the technology platform is capable and up to date, and the healthcare providers have worked closely with the NJHIN team to make sure the connections are maintained on their end. With the outbreak of COVID-19, shared data points have been monitored even more closely for-up-to date diagnosis code adoption.
The NJHIN offers value to the providers, patients and public health system by sharing key information about patients,” said NJDOH Chief Information Officer Eileen Troutman. “Having a complete data set helps accelerate coordination of care.”
The New Jersey Innovation Institute’s (NJII) healthcare division is the state-designated entity tasked with managing and operating the NJHIN on behalf of the NJDOH, and is thus assigned to work with the network’s participants to ensure the data that flows through it is secure and of the highest quality.
“We reach out to NJHIN participants regularly to make sure they remain up to date on maintaining data definitions and connections, such as the way that a patient’s diagnosis code is reported,” said Jennifer D’Angelo, senior vice president and general manager of the Healthcare Division at NJII. Receiving data in a standard format ensures a “universal” interpretation of the diagnosis, she explained.
NJHIN member organizations have made great strides over the last few months in both the quality and quantity of information they gather. For instance, RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH), one of the largest health delivery systems in the state, reviewed their data formatting with NJII as files being sent would be missing a diagnosis, address, or the like. A review of their system showed why the basic information was there for some patients and not others. As a result of the work, RWJBH was able to improve its reporting dramatically. Its centers across the state now have the fewest missing fields in data sharing.
CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, NJ, is another high-conforming hospital, with almost no missing basic data fields. “Data quality is driving constant improvements in the NJHIN,” said CentraState Vice President and CIO John Ulett. “That this effort is ongoing, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, is testament to the dedication of the professionals at CentraState and our counterparts at hospitals across New Jersey.”
Troutman noted that the network hopes to eventually achieve and maintain conformance scores of 95% across all hospitals, statewide. More than 2.3 million messages have been sent through the NJHIN since September.