What Does the Law Mandate? Under a law passed in 2015, the North Carolina Health Information Exchange Authority was created to oversee and administer the N.C. Health Information Exchange Network (NCGS 90-414.7). NC HIEA is housed within the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s Government Data Analytics Center. NC HIEA operates North Carolina’s statewide health information exchange—NC HealthConnex, a tool that links disparate systems and existing HIE networks together to deliver a holistic view of patient records through a secure, standardized electronic system. NC HealthConnex allows providers to review and more easily share important patient health information. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 Recovery Act (NCSL 2020-3) was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday, May 4. Section 3E.1.(a) addresses the connection requirement to NC HealthConnex, extending the June 1, 2020, connection deadline to October 1, 2021. In addition, all providers who have shown a good-faith effort to connect to NC HealthConnex and have a valid participation agreement on file will also have the extended deadline of October 1, 2021. This extension of time will allow the large queue of health care providers in active onboarding to complete the connection process. Connecting to NC HealthConnex can take up 12 months, depending on your EHR software. Please note: If you were mandated to connect by June 1, 2020, your new deadline is October 1, 2021. Providers who have signed a participation agreement do not need to take further action. The NC HealthConnex technical team will reach out when technical discussions are to begin with your practice. For providers with an original deadline of June 1, 2021, (ambulatory surgical centers, dentists, state lab, pharmacies and state health care facilities), there is still a June 1, 2021, deadline. However, organizations who have a valid participation agreement on file with NC HIEA and who are actively working on their connection to NC HealthConnex are eligible to receive an extension to June 1, 2022. NC HIEA encourages all providers impacted by the HIE Act to begin the process now to initiate their good-faith effort to meet the state’s reporting requirements. Currently, there are more than 5,000 facilities in onboarding, and it can take up to a year to complete the connection process. The NC HIEA technical connections team is working with more than 200 disparate EHR vendors to build technical integrations to the HIE. Currently, there are more than 80 EHRs live in production. Full participants may request expedited access to the clinical portal during the COVID-19 public health crisis to enable more informed treatment decisions at the point of care. To request access, please reach out to the NC HIEA SAS Help Desk at HIESupport@sas.com or (919) 531-2700. Prepaid health plans must connect by the start of their capitated contracts entered into with the NC Division of Health Benefits Please email HIEA@nc.gov with any questions. In addition, some providers are no longer required to connect. The following providers may voluntarily submit data or access NC HealthConnex's Suite of Services by signing NC HIEA's full participation agreement: Community-based long-term services and supports providers, including personal care services, private duty nursing, home health and hospice care providers Intellectual and developmental disability services and supports providers, such as day supports and supported living providers Community Alternatives Program waiver services (including CAP/DA, CAP/C and Innovations) providers Eye and vision services providers Speech, language and hearing services providers Occupational and physical therapy providers Durable medical equipment providers Nonemergency medical transportation service providers Ambulance (emergency medical transportation service) providers Local education agencies and school-based health providers DHHS Hardship Extension Process Session Law 2019-23 modified the Statewide HIE Act and gave NC DHHS the authority to grant a temporary Hardship Extension to classes of providers for whom acquiring and implementing an EHR system and connecting to the HIE Network would constitute an undue hardship. A Hardship Extension extends the participant’s deadline to December 31, 2022. All providers that receive a hardship extension must be live and sending data by January 1, 2023. For more information about the DHHS Hardship Extension process, click here. Please note: The NC HIEA does not grant hardship extensions. All questions and/or requests about the hardship extension should be sent to the DHB Ombudsman at Medicaid.ProviderOmbudsman@dhhs.nc.gov. What Does Connected Mean? To meet the state’s mandate, a Medicaid provider is “connected” when its clinical and demographic information (or claims data, depending on the organization) pertaining to services paid for by Medicaid and other state-funded health care funds are being sent to NC HealthConnex, at least twice daily—either through a direct connection or via a hub (i.e., a larger system with which it participates, another regional HIE with which it participates or an EHR vendor). Participants must include all the locations and organizations they are sending data to NC HealthConnex on behalf of so that NC HIEA may accurately report compliance to the N.C. Department of Helath and Human Services and the State Health Plan.