Adoption of NC HealthConnex Improves with AHEC Coaching Assistance
Health care providers in North Carolina can get personalized guidance on how to connect to NC HealthConnex, the state-designated health information exchange, and learn how to get the most out of it for their practices thanks to N.C. Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) coaches.
AHEC provides educational services to support the health care workforce across the state, particularly Medicaid providers and those in rural areas and with fewer resources.
“We take a lot of pride in working with our practices,” said Maria Goergen, an educational specialist with the Charlotte AHEC. “We continue to be a resource for the state of North Carolina. We continue to be a resource for our regions.”
AHEC coaches help practices in a broad range of areas, from staffing to billing and medical coding to technical issues. While the practices range from solo providers to large federally qualified health centers, smaller providers can often benefit the most from AHEC services.
“Most of what we do is support practices who don't have the same support as a practice that's related to a health system. We really support our practices with just about everything,” Goergen said. “I've had every question under the sun. I don't know that anything is off the table. If they want to ask us and they have that relationship with us, they will absolutely ask us.”
AHEC coaches help providers understand the value of NC HealthConnex for their work and how their needs can be best met by utilizing NC HealthConnex services.
“A lot of it comes down to relationships and knowing your practices,” said Shanon Farrell, a practice support consultant with the South East AHEC. “We all work very closely with the practices we support, so we know what's important to them, what they value.”
AHEC coaches educate providers about the legislative requirements to participate in NC HealthConnex, guide them through the process of signing a participation agreement and connecting and provide ongoing training on new features and enhancements. Coaches give individualized guidance on using NC HealthConnex, including NC*Notify, bidirectional exchange, the clinical portal viewer and lab reports.
“We try to find how it will be most appropriate for them and for them to utilize,” Farrell said. She helps providers “see the benefits and see how it can be most functional. To the practices, that is really important.”
For example, physicians often appreciate the ease of receiving alerts through NC*Notify when their patients see other providers.
“Getting those alerts right into physicians’ laps really makes the follow-up a lot easier,” Goergen said. “Having that notification is super helpful.”
Established relationships with N.C. Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA) staff and its vendor partner enable AHEC coaches to help providers handle technical issues.
“The relationships between us and the practices and us and the HIE, it's a huge asset to practices, especially these small practices,” Farrell said. “They don't have IT people and they don't know IT, so having that actual help makes it not so intimidating.”
AHEC coaches aid providers as they face challenges, from turnover to transitions between electronic health record vendors, so that they can more effectively care for patients.
“Our job with everything that we do is find ways to pull down barriers,” Goergen said. “We are here for our practices, and I think those who have taken advantage of our services recognize that. But those who have not taken advantage of our services who are eligible should sign up.”
NC HealthConnex Participant Receives Recognition for Positive Patient Impacts
Cary Medical Management (CMM), which manages primary care practices across North Carolina, received an award from the International Leadership Foundation for the positive patient impacts it has achieved through participation in NC HealthConnex, the state-designated health information exchange.
Dr. Siu Shing Tong, CMM chief executive officer, received one of two Entrepreneur Awards recognizing the achievements of Asian Americans presented by the ILF-North Carolina Chapter at its annual meeting in Raleigh on Aug. 20.
N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore presented a “Certificate of Special Recognition” to Dr. Tong for “bringing your entrepreneurial spirit and success to North Carolina, and your leadership in Cary Medical Management’s pioneer endeavor to utilize the State’s Health Information Exchange to positively impact the health of our citizens.”
Dr. Tong, an aeronautical and astronautical engineer with a Ph.D. from MIT, is infusing software robot technology he has created to identify missing patient data from practices across the state that is available in the state HIE.
“Without the perseverance of North Carolina’s Health Information Exchange Authority to deliver the valuable data in NC HealthConnex, our clinics would still be treating patients with incomplete information,” Tong said. “We’re fortunate to live in a state where the legislature and state government work so hard to ensure better healthcare for all its citizens. The relationship has been a tremendous collaboration benefitting our citizens/patients.”
Read more about how CMM utilizes NC HealthConnex in primary care practices.
NC HIEA Answers Questions About Connection Deadline, Enforcement Mandate
The N.C. Health Information Exchange Authority is ready to answer questions that health care organizations and providers may have about legislative changes made in the 2022 Appropriations Act (Session Law 2022-74), which came into effect July 11, 2022.
Highlights from the new law include:
- The deadline to connect to NC HealthConnex remains January 1, 2023, for organizations who receive state funds for providing services (e.g., Medicaid, State Health Plan, grants).
- Enforcement of the statutory mandate for certain providers and entities to connect and submit data to NC HealthConnex as a condition of receiving state funds is temporarily suspended until the General Assembly implements enforcement reforms. This means that providers, regardless of connection status, may continue receiving payment of state funds for providing services (e.g., Medicaid, State Health Plan) at this time.
- In March 2023, the General Assembly will receive a report outlining the status of organizations that met – or failed to meet – the January 1, 2023, connection and submission deadline.
- The NC HIEA Advisory Board may offer additional recommendations to the General Assembly about enforcement of the Statewide Health Information Exchange Act and about enhancements to NC HealthConnex. These recommendations will supplement a report and recommendations that the NC HIEA Advisory Board submitted to the General Assembly this spring, which focused on data connections, supporting patients, and protecting the networks of providers who serve state-funded patients.
For more information about legislative requirements related to the state HIE, see our “What Does the Law Mandate?” page.
Workforce Recruitment Opens Risks of Cyber Attacks
As health care organizations compete for workers amid staffing shortages in an increasingly competitive marketplace, they might find that their risks for cyber attacks have also risen.
Human resources employees looking to hire new people are the targets of cyber scams in a trending global threat, experts said at a recent keynote at the 2022 RSA Conference.
HR employees with health care organizations frequently interact with people outside the organization and are more likely to open external files. Attackers frequently take advantage of this by hiding malware within fake resume files. They also use job-listing and networking sites such as LinkedIn to identify potential targets.
Organizations can find cybersecurity tips and risk management resources from the N.C. Department of Information Technology to avoid such scams.
Read more cybersecurity news and tips in the N.C. Department of Information Technology's Enterprise Security and Risk Management Office's August Cybersecurity newsletter.
- How to Connect Call – Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. – Learn more about steps to connect to NC HealthConnex and the suite of value-added services available. Register for the call.
- Quarterly User Audit – Friday, Sept. 30 – Contacted organizations should complete user account audits within their participant account administrator portal by this date. For detailed information, see the Quarterly Audit Quick Reference Guide.
In the News
What Distinguishes a Health Data Utility From an HIE? – HIE leaders from Vermont, Rhode Island and Nebraska discuss what the term “health data utility” means for the work they are doing in their states. HCInnovationGroup.com
Apple Issues Urgent Cybersecurity Updates to Fix Zero-Day Vulnerabilities – Healthcare organizations should urgently apply recommended cybersecurity updates to defend against zero-day vulnerabilities in certain Apple products. HealthITSecurity.com
How Healthcare is Tackling Patient Privacy in a Post-Roe World – The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization requires providers, regulators, and tech companies to rethink patient privacy. HealthITSecurity.com