The New Jersey Health Information Network, fondly referred to as the NJHIN, is the only state-wide information network that enables the electronic exchange of patient information among health care providers across the entire state of New Jersey. The NJHIN is owned by the New Jersey Department of Health; the New Jersey Innovation Institute, a 501(c)3 corporation launched in 2014 by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, is the organization appointed by the state to run it.
This concept is not unique to New Jersey. According to the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative, a national collaborative representing health information exchanges, associated organizations, and strategic business and technology partners, there are more than 76 HIEs covering more than 92% of the U.S. population, and more than 125 total organizations. All these networks and exchanges have one thing in common: they are designed to help disparate health care systems share vital health information to enable better care, better outcomes, and lower costs.
All 71 acute-care hospitals have been part of the NJHIN since 2019 and actively sending Admission, Data and Transfer alerts to health care providers and care teams so they can follow up with their patients and coordinate ongoing care. The goal of this program is to help reduce hospital re-admissions and improve coordination of care to ensure that patients receive the right support after their hospital visits.
Now, in 2021, all long-term care and assisted living facilities are joining the NJHIN as well. This is happening in part because of recent regulation. In September 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy signed Assembly Bill 4476 into law. This piece of legislation establishes certain requirements concerning the state’s preparedness and response to infectious disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 pandemic. One requirement was the establishment of the Long-Term Care Emergency Operations Center within the Health Department.
The goal of this information-sharing and increased interoperability is to reduce the cost of health care and improve patient health by leveraging the network for a variety of situations.
Serving as the centralized command and resource center for long-term care facility response efforts and communications during any hazardous event, the LTCEOC oversees responses to events including but not limited to infectious disease outbreaks, epidemics, pandemics, and all declared public health emergencies affecting or likely to affect one or more long-term care facilities. The LTCEOC is designed to enhance and integrate with existing state, county and local emergency-response systems.
Under the LTCEOC, in response to Assembly Bill 4476, one of the requirements that a long-term care organization must meet is connectivity to the NJHIN, including bi-directional capability for admission, discharge, and transfer and continuity of care. There is no cost for health care organizations to connect to the NJHIN. No third-party providers are necessary; instead, organizations may connect directly or through their Health Information Exchange or another trusted data-sharing organization.
The NJHIN is unique in that it connects directly to New Jersey’s public health registries, allowing it to maintain a statewide patient identifying system. This means that patient health information can be easily identified from one facility to the next through the assignment of a unique patient ID. The goal of this information-sharing and increased interoperability is to reduce the cost of health care and improve patient health by leveraging the network for a variety of situations.
For long-term care organizations in New Jersey, connecting to the NJHIN not only helps satisfy the requirements of state and federal regulations, but it can vastly improve industry interoperability and patient care overall. Industry organizations including assisted living, post-acute care, independent living facilities and more are better able to improve care coordination, streamline transitional care management, conduct timely patient follow-up, and improve patient outcomes.
Their NJHIN connectivity also allows them to connect and participate in the electronic mobile Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (emPOLST) program.
The bottom line is that by participating in the NJHIN, not only will long-term care organizations meet the requirements of these recent legislation changes, but they will also improve care coordination for the thousands of patients they represent – a benefit that will be deeply appreciated by their entire care team, especially those who are unpaid, in other words, family members and others who care for the residents of these facilities. Another anticipated benefit is reduction in the cost of care.
There is no cost for health care organizations to connect to the NJHIN and no need for third-party providers are necessary; instead, organizations may connect directly or through their Health Information Exchange/Regional Health Hub or another trusted data-sharing organization. Visit NJHIN on the web here to learn more or contact the NJII team at [email protected].
Jennifer D’Angelo is senior vice president and general manager of the Healthcare Division at New Jersey Innovation Institute.