October 2019 Update

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

NC HIEA Announces Partnership with NC AHEC

The North Carolina Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA) is pleased to announce a partnership with the North Carolina Area Health Education Centers (NC AHEC), housed at the University of North Carolina, to increase training opportunities for health care providers participating in the state-designated HIE, NC HealthConnex.

“The State of North Carolina has invested in a modernized HIE network that supports health care providers statewide to break down information silos, achieve greater health care outcomes for patients, and create efficiencies in state-funded health care programs such as Medicaid,” said Christie Burris, executive director of the NC Health Information Exchange Authority. “Our partnership with NC AHEC will help provide participating providers with ongoing education resources to leverage the additional point of care information within NC HealthConnex.”

The NC AHEC Program provides and supports educational activities and services with a focus on primary care in rural and under-resourced communities to recruit, train, and retain the workforce needed to create a healthy North Carolina.

“We are honored to partner with NC HIEA to assist practices across the state as they navigate NC HealthConnex and utilize the features available on the network,” shared Hugh Tilson, director of the NC AHEC Program. “This platform has the ability to transform the way providers deliver care in their communities, and we are excited to help facilitate that.”

As NC HealthConnex has been rapidly adding Medicaid providers to its statewide network, the NC HIEA aims to better train and prepare those providers to utilize the HIE in their clinical workflows. Together, NC HIEA and NC AHEC plan to provide ongoing education opportunities to participants of NC HealthConnex through approved funding by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

North Carolina is launching a robust NC HealthConnex training and data quality program, directed by the NC HIEA and carried out by NC AHEC. With the additional funding, existing and newly connected NC HealthConnex participants will have access to onsite and virtual training, including training on new features and specific use cases, as well as the facilitation of larger health system or regional group workshops/trainings. With the trainings and tools provided, health care providers will be able to offer better care to the citizens of North Carolina.

The NC AHEC Program has 35 practice support coaches trained to work with providers and clinic staff across the state. These coaches have helped more than 6,000 providers at 1,400 practices move toward promoting interoperability (formerly meaningful use) of their electronic health records; nearly 600 practices with Medicaid Transformation education and issue resolution; over 500 practices improve office systems for better care; and more than 300 practices achieve patient-centered medical home recognition. The NC HIEA has historically worked with NC AHEC to ensure this team is up to speed on NC HealthConnex recruiting efforts and technical features to share with the practices they work with on a regular basis. 

Created by the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGS 90-414.7), NC HealthConnex is the state-designated health information exchange and is managed by the North Carolina Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA) housed within the N.C. Department of Information Technology. Additionally, legislation requires that health care providers who receive State funds for the provision of health care services (e.g. Medicaid, State Health Plan) connect to NC HealthConnex by certain dates.

For more information, visit www.nchealthconnex.gov.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the N.C. Department of Information Technology encourages everyone to educate themselves on how they can better stay safe online, at home and at work.  Cybersecurity protection and being “cybersmart” are responsibilities shared by everyone. Remember to “Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.”

  • Own IT. Take proactive steps to ensure the information you’re sharing online and giving out is secure. Be familiar with and routinely check privacy settings. Avoid the use of free or open Wi-Fi networks, which cybercriminals often exploit.
  • Secure IT. Create strong, unique passwords. Turn on multi-factor authentication, when possible. Know how to use the security features of the devices you use every day.
  • Protect IT. Understanding how to keep your information safe will help protect you from cybercrime. Practice good “cyber hygiene” habits at home and at work. Update to the latest security software, web browsers and operating systems.

Follow the N.C. Department of Information Technology on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for tips and best practices, or visit https://www.staysafeonline.org and https://www.stopthinkconnect.org.  One of the best ways you can help protect yourself is to learn how to spot and avoid email scams. Always keep these tips in mind:

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited emails. Whether it’s a request for donations or just information about the people in your family or business, cybercriminals can use details you provide in elaborate scams.
  • Don’t hesitate to follow up. Even if you know and trust the sender, contact them by phone or in person if an email seems out of the ordinary or is a request for money or sensitive information.
  • Think before you click. Links and attachments in suspicious emails could compromise your online security and that of your company. If there’s any doubt, check with the sender first.
  • Pay attention to website URLs. Malicious websites can look identical to trusted sites, but the URL might use a different spelling or domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
  • Protect your personal information. Avoid sending sensitive, personal identifiable information (e.g., Social Security numbers) or passwords in email, regardless of the recipient, unless encryption is used.
  • Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. If you think you are a victim of cybercrime or worried you revealed sensitive information about your agency, report it immediately.  Email scams and other cybercrimes can be elaborate and difficult to detect – even by the most vigilant person

EHR Funding Program for Behavioral Health/IDD Providers Update

The NC Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA) partnered with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Office of Rural Health (ORH) and NC Medicaid to launch a program to assist behavioral health, mental health and intellectual development and disability practices with purchasing an Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology and establishing connectivity to the state-designated health information exchange, NC HealthConnex.

Many behavioral and mental health providers do not have access to critical patient information, such as labs and allergies, and can be isolated from sharing information with other health care providers. This fragmented care can cause delays in an accurate diagnosis or a harmful drug interaction. Today, behavioral and mental health providers in North Carolina are not only encouraged to join NC HealthConnex, it is required for many providers.

This program was designed to support health care practices that:

  • Are Medicaid-enrolled outpatient practices that have an active NPI number in NC’s Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS), NCTracks;
  • Provide behavioral health, mental health, or intellectual and developmental disorder services;
  • Attest that they have not received funding for EHR adoption or meaningful use (e.g. Medicaid or Medicare EHR Incentive Program);
  • Attest that they do not have EHR technology or attest that they do have a practice management system as of January 1, 2018, that could be upgraded to an EHR; and
  • For calendar year 2017, behavioral health, mental health, or intellectual and developmental disorder services providers make up 75 percent of their affiliated health care providers based on NCTracks data.

As of October 2019, over 100 Behavioral Health/IDD organizations have implemented and been reimbursed for an EHR through this grant funding.

The Behavioral Health/IDD EHR Incentive Program’s calls and presentations from past webinars are available on the Office of Rural Health website.  This program funding has closed, but other NC DHHS funding opportunities can be found here

NC HIEA Calendar of Events

  • Local Health Management Association – Conference Presentation, Wednesday, November 6, 2019
  • Teletown Hall: Patient Education & PAA User Management (open to all NC HealthConnex Participant Account Administrators), Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 12:00-1:00 p.m. To register, click here.
  • Teletown Hall: NC HealthConnex Clinical Portal Demonstration (open to all NC HealthConnex Participant Users), Wednesday, November 13, 2019, 12:00-1:00 p.m. To register, click here.
  • National Association of Social Workers North Carolina Fall Conference – Conference Presenter, Friday, November 22, 2019. For more information, click here.
  • i2i Center for Integrative Health, Sparking Innovations – Conference Presentation, Thursday, December 5, 2019. For more information, click here.

DSM Provider Directory: Updates should be in your in-box. For more information on Direct Secure Messaging (DSM), click here.

If your organization would like a member of the HIEA Outreach Team to present at a meeting or conference, please contact Jessica Brehmer at Jessica.Brehmer@nc.gov.

In Other News

Sandhills Region Wins $1 Million Federal Grant to Battle Opioid Abuse - Driven by a shared goal that “all pathways will lead to freedom and survival from opioid addiction and dependence in the Sandhills region,” a partnership of more than 25 health and human services organizations in Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore and Richmond counties recently won a $1 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration to implement activities to address opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery. www.yourdailyjournal.com

Report: About 1 in 3 Senior Healthcare Execs Lack Familiarity with Feds’ Interoperability Proposals - Payers appear to be more prepared than providers, but nearly 1 in 5 survey respondents said they know nothing about the Cures Act. www.hcinnovationgroup.com

What Banking Can Teach Health Care About Handling Customer Data - The widespread adoption of electronic health records should theoretically mean that we don’t have to repeat our medical history for every new doctor, any emergency room (ER) ought to know we’re allergic to penicillin even if we arrive unconscious, and we’ll automatically get a heads-up if we have a diagnosis that qualifies us to participate in a clinical trial. What lessons can we learn from banking to help bring health care’s information-handling capabilities into the 21st century? Hbr.org