Health IT projects administered by RTI International expand health information exchange to include patients

Pilot projects administered by RTI International were conducted by the National Association for Trusted Exchange (NATE), Children’s Medical Center in Dallas and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston

A woman doctor uses a tablet

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — In an effort to allow patients to be more engaged in their own health care, RTI International administered a series of pilot projects to provide patients access and control of their electronic health records. 

The pilot projects were a part of the Personal Health Records (PHR) Ignite project, an initiative to facilitate electronic access and exchange of health information using Direct secure messaging. The project is supported through the State Health Policy Consortium, managed by RTI and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). 

“These pilot projects are the first in the nation to demonstrate the potential to involve patients in managing the exchange of their own data between providers,” said Robert Bailey, project director of the SHPC project. “This establishes the groundwork for the growth of consumer-mediated exchange by pushing the boundaries beyond simply allowing patients to access their information in a static format tied to a single entity, and allows them to incorporate that information into a longitudinal, lifelong record that they manage and share.”

RTI worked with Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, connecting them with Microsoft’s Direct-enabled HealthVault PHR. This project helped hospital staff send health information to patients with sickle cell disease using their HealthVault PHR, which they accessed on mobile devices and shared with treating physicians outside the Children’s system as needed. 

In another pilot project, MD Anderson Cancer Center tested a way to expand the export capabilities of their current patient portal system and enable patients to share medical data with other providers. The project allowed MD Anderson to become familiar with system requirements and ensure that health record data can be sent from the patient portal tied to their system to a patient’s Microsoft HealthVault PHR. MD Anderson Cancer Center expects to apply this knowledge to future PHR related projects. 

RTI also supported a pilot project conducted by NATE to develop and test policies for PHR systems, allowing a broad network of trusted exchange between patients and providers. The project used a multistate governance approach to expand interoperability of Direct secure messaging to PHR systems not only across systems, but across state boundaries.  The policies were tested in multiple demonstration projects in three states, supporting the ability to not only send health record information to a patient’s PHR, but also to allow patients to send encrypted information from their PHR to other providers regardless of their location.

NATE demonstrated this capability at the Health Information Management Systems Society 2014 annual conference at the Interoperability Showcase and plans to continue developing operational policies for nationwide use. 

“Through the State Health Policy Consortium, we have been able to build new functionalities on top of exchange capabilities enabled through the State HIE Program,” said Lee Stevens, Policy Director, ONC State HIE Program. “The PHR Ignite Project and the rapid development of the National Association for Trusted Exchange are concrete evidence of the desire to take relatively simple tools and build dynamic, scalable platforms to improve health care. The leadership and vision of our states as laboratories and the partnerships they form is the key to solving the long-term challenges ahead.”