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New national initiative seeks to increase impact of data sharing in health and human services

Health, Human Services

Stewards of Change Institute and AcademyHealth have announced a new initiative – enabled by a grant from The Kresge Foundation – to improve collaboration among health and human services in the U.S. through better use of technology and information-sharing.

SOCI and AcademyHealth will use Kresge’s $1.2 million in seed funding to create the National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC), a “network of networks” that will advance the use of interoperability and data-sharing in health, health care, human services and related systems. NIC’s efforts will include building information-sharing partnerships that specifically benefit underserved individuals, families and communities across the country.

“So much knowledge and so many tools already exist to deliver far better care than we’re currently doing,” said SOCI President Daniel Stein. “But most systems still operate in silos, so we’re not learning from each other or optimizing the use of existing resources. We’re very grateful to The Kresge Foundation for providing us with the wherewithal to start reshaping that reality.”

As a first step, the initiative will aggregate existing guidance on data-sharing such as “Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap” from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology; “Finding Solutions to the Prescription Opioid and Heroin Crisis” from the National Governors Association; and the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program and its work on “Multisector Community Health Partnerships,” among numerous others.

Margo Edmunds, AcademyHealth’s vice president for evidence generation and translation, said tracking progress in multisector collaboration and interoperability will be an important component of NIC’s efforts.

“We are all committed to helping providers get better information about the families and communities they serve,” she said. “Data sharing changes organizational relationships and helps get the right information to the right providers at the right time. We hope to find and share some of the best ways to build and maintain those collaborative systems.”

NIC will synthesize and build on this collective knowledge to provide guidance, facilitate standards and promote the effective use of cross-sector interoperability and information sharing. An initial demonstration project under consideration is to pilot a new initiative – called the Health Emergency Linkages and Preparedness (HELP) model – for better addressing public health-related crises such as the opioid/heroin epidemic, the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. HELP, which is being planned by SOCI and the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), will be the centerpiece of a Guidance Document and Action Plan that the two organizations are currently preparing for publication.

Along with Kresge, partners in the work include the states of California, Connecticut and Virginia, as well as HIMSS.

“The National Interoperability Collaborative will fill the information system gap between the health and human services sectors,” said David Fukuzawa, managing director of Kresge’s Health and Human Services programs. “With the leadership from Stewards of Change and AcademyHealth, we have a unique opportunity to learn how we can increase best practices and collaborate for better outcomes for those we serve.” 

The NIC initiative and the Guidance Document and Action Plan will be among the primary focuses of SOCI’s 12th Annual National Symposium, being held June 19-20 in Baltimore in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.