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Mass HIway likely to see changes in the near future

Thursday, December 01, 2016

By Karen Rabinovici

The state-sponsored Health Information Exchange, known as the Mass HIway, was launched in October 2012, offering doctors’ offices, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies, skilled nursing facilities, and other healthcare organizations a method by which to securely exchange information electronically with each other.  The aim of the Mass Hiway was to improve care coordination and delivery, avoid readmissions and medical errors, reduce administrative costs and duplicative testing, enhance communication among providers, increase patient engagement, and improve public health reporting and analytics.  One of the Mass HIway’s main functions is secure direct messaging between participating users, and the Mass HIway plans on soon offering “Event Notification Services,” which will allow for the transmission of notifications to a patient’s health care providers when the patient is admitted to any participating hospital in the state.  All providers, regardless of affiliation, location, or differences in technology, may use the Mass HIway.

The Mass HIway is now likely looking at some changes in the near future.  On Friday November 4, 2016 the Executive Office of Health and Information Services released proposed regulations specific to the requirement for all providers to implement a fully interoperable (meaning, having the ability to send and receive HIway direct messages) electronic health record that connects to the Mass HIway, and the establishment of a mechanism that allows patients to opt-in or opt-out of the MassHIway.  The proposed regulations require specific providers (acute care hospitals, medical ambulatory practices with ten or more licensed providers participating in health care delivery, and all community health centers) to connect to the MassHIway between 2017 and 2019, while other types of providers (behavioral health entities, dental clinics, nursing homes) will be required to connect at a date to be specified, with at least one-year notice (and no earlier than January 2018).  Connection requirements will be established through future regulations.  The proposed regulations would require that providers that are required to connect to demonstrate compliance by attesting to implementing at least one “Use Case of HIway Direct Messaging.”  Examples of this are a hospital using the Mass HIway to send discharge summaries to a receiving facility, or a primary care physician practice using the Mass HIway to send referrals.  The proposed regulations require acute care hospitals to send Admission, Discharge, and Transfer messages using the Mass HIway.

Regarding the opt-in or opt-out mechanism, the proposed regulations will require that a provider must provide written notice to patients that it will use the Mass HIway, and must include in this written notice instructions in the event the patient chooses to opt-out.  Thereafter, either the provider will inform Mass HIway of the patient’s decision to opt-out, or will provide the patient with instructions on how to do so.

A public hearing was held by the EOHHS on Monday November 28, 2016, and public comments were accepted until Tuesday November 29, 2016. Additionally, the EOHHS accepted electronic written testimony.

The proposed regulation can found here.


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