Guest Post from Emily Mata, Manager, Marketing and Communications, Velatura

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the need for streamlined data exchange into the spotlight. Timely, accurate and effective data exchange between patients, caregivers and providers is always critical—but especially so in order to flatten the curve and curb the pandemic.

We are seeing the importance of interoperability play out today across the globe in the COVID-19 pandemic, including in Michigan, where data – or lack of it – has shaped health system responses. Researchers, providers and caregivers cannot operate in their own respective vacuums. We need to be able to freely share information about individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, including demographic data about how many were seen at health facilities, how many were hospitalized, the length of the hospital stay and how they were cared for in order to know what prevention and mitigation efforts are working—and to make vital decisions about intensive care unit rooms, boosting supplies of personal protection equipment, ventilators and diagnostic tests.

Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN), the parent company of Velatura Public Benefit Corporation, has been leading the way in various efforts surrounding the secure exchange of health information for over a decade. Our focus has always been, and always will be, the residents of Michigan. It has been our mission over the past several months to amplify our efforts in the best way possible to reduce burdens on our medical communities and lead statewide efforts to increase efficiency for sharing data, accessing data across caregivers, and reduce burdens on physicians and those on the front line. Together, with Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, we have accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time.

MiHIN put its expertise to work in Metro Detroit to devise a data tracking operation  associated with the drive-by COVID-19 testing facility at the former Michigan Fairgrounds. Initial plans called for all health care data to be managed on paper, from documentation certifying that the holder deserved to be tested, to the swab number and the results of the test. Given hard-to-read handwriting, the likelihood of inaccurate transcribing of information, and the possible loss of paper record, this process did not meet the standards of modern data management.

MiHIN reached out to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s office and developed a paperless system. When a doctor agreed a person needed to be tested, MiHIN was notified electronically. MiHIN then notified the welcoming team at the fairgrounds about what the expected workload would be and who would show up the next day. When the person arrived, the greeter accessed the electronic record – letting MiHIN know that the patient had arrived and tested. MiHIN let the prescribing physician know the test had been taken. The swab sent for analysis was tracked

Within two weeks, this system has handled the testing of nearly 4,000 individuals, many of them health care professionals, efficiently and meeting all federal and state patient security requirements. The information can also be accessed by public health professionals, to allow them to track the ill persons, clear those who tested negative, and be added to the overall database of information necessary for appropriate resource deployment. This is the kind of clean, complete and useful data that can help drive good decisions.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear the cracks in the current interoperability landscape. However, industry efforts—including the new CMS guidelines—are ushering in better, more stringent data standards that will result in more-coordinated care and quicker reporting of public health issues.

Velatura strategically aligns and connects people, organizations, technology, ideas, and information to improve healthcare, simplify work and reduce costs. Offering market-driven solutions, as well as being the sole provider of MiHIN products and services, Velatura supports organizations in their mission to interoperate and streamline the sharing of pertinent electronic information. For more information about Velatura, click here.