First, it is important to understand the difference between HIX and HIE. HIX usually refers to health insurance exchange or marketplace insurance, which is a central component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, the ACA or whatever you want to call it. The ACA requires healthcare coverage for everyone and HIX is supposed to allow individuals to compare health insurance plans online (if the government can manage to fix the websites and back end infrastructure). HIE stands for health information exchange (oftentimes still used as a noun, but increasingly it has become the action word for data exchange). HIE plays an important role in the healthcare system. It gives doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacies, laboratories, payers and ultimately patients, the ability to exchange health information electronically in a secure environment. One of my favorite HIE solutions has been Mirth primarily because of Mirth’s commercial open source model, you get the benefits of a commercial quality product and also an open source, agile, community-driven development process.
In September Mirth announced their acquisition by Quality Systems, Inc. the parent company of NextGen Healthcare who is one of the leading electronic health record (EHR) vendors in the ambulatory space. At the time Jon Teichrow, President of Mirth Corporation said, "We are excited about the opportunity to combine forces with NextGen Healthcare. Our shared vision is a game-changing product platform that enables clients to quickly assemble and link components that inform and transform clinical processes, taking care management and delivery to the next level. Together, we can enable our clients to respond with agility to the demands of a rapidly evolving health care environment." The idea was that QSI would continue to market Mirth's products and services while integrating them into the NextGen platform. We may have seen some of this integration during the first day of NextGen's UGM with the launch of NextGen Share.
During the unveiling of this new interoperability platform from the combination of NextGen's widely deployed EHR and Mirth Corporation's health information exchange solution, Steven T. Plochocki the President and CEO at Quality Systems, Inc. (QSI)said. “Mirth’s reputation as one of the most adopted, open and globally trusted interconnectivity platforms is a natural fit for NextGen’s established network of providers." He added, "NextGen Share affords our client base an unprecedented level of data exchange that will allow our providers, patients and healthcare facilities to participate fully in a collaborative and connected care environment."
"It’s the first phase of a broad enterprise interoperability initiative to supply clients with advanced, scalable data exchange capabilities," noted Steve Puckett, CTO at QSI. "In this first phase, NextGen Share will allow providers to locate other NextGen providers across their community and the country to send real-time, secure provider to provider email... and exchange C-CDA records securely between network participants." A year ago Surescripts announced NextGen's connection to the Surescripts Network for Clinical Interoperability. Now NextGen and Mirth are sister companies and they will be able to build out their own network and connect to other EHR's and HIE software using Direct. Mirth is already the software behind numerous Direct Project implementations and has provided resources and been involved in the efforts from the beginning.
Some notable HIE initiatives that make use of Mirth technology are the very successful HealthBridge, the Colorado Beacon Community, the Crescent City Beacon Community, the San Diego Beacon Community, the Inland Northwest Beacon Community, as well as Mayo Clinic and the Lone Star Circle of Care, and ACO in Texas.
This new NextGen Share is intended to enable providers to safely, securely, and accurately exchange clinical data and provide referrals without leaving their EHR. It is based on Mirth's proven HIE solution, however this initial phase will only connect with other NextGen users. Using Mirth technology and their capabilities as a HISP, NextGen will be able to When the network is expanded this will enable exchange to really scale with connectivity to other EHRs and HISPs in the community. This is where the real value will be in terms of having the technology to participate in new payment and care delivery models.