The N.C. Department of Public Safety and the future N.C. Department of Adult Correction have joined NC HealthConnex, North Carolina’s state-designated health information exchange (HIE), expanding access to the medical records of incarcerated persons to provide enhanced continuity of care.
Adult Correction, which will become a separate Cabinet agency as of Jan. 1, 2023, signed a participation agreement on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, with N.C. Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA), a business unit within the N.C. Department of Information Technology which operates NC HealthConnex. The agreement meets a 2018 legislative mandate for correctional facilities to fully participate in the state HIE in order to address gaps in health care.
“The NC HIEA is committed to providing this health data utility to support improving the health of all North Carolinians, and our partnership with the soon-to-be N.C. Department of Adult Correction is the next step in ensuring better, more informed care for some of the state’s most vulnerable populations,” said NC HIEA Executive Director Christie Burris. “NC HealthConnex equips providers with the records and information to understand their patients’ needs, appropriately diagnose and treat them and coordinate their care.”
Dr. Gary Junker, director of health and wellness for NCDPS Prisons, established a multidisciplinary, cross-agency workgroup in 2020 to plan and prepare for the HIE integration.
“Toward that goal, we have been extremely pleased with the support that our partners from HIEA have provided in this venture,” Junker said. “Connecting access to health records will provide better health outcomes and enhance overall public health in the community.”
NC HealthConnex, a secure, standardized electronic system for providers to share important patient health information, will help Adult Correction, as a new department, deliver comprehensive health care services to the approximately 30,000 people in the state’s 55 correctional facilities. Adult Correction’s health care system is separate from the care patients receive before and after incarceration and often relies on patients’ self-reported medical histories, which are difficult to verify.
NC HealthConnex will provide Adult Correction with a more complete view of offenders’ health records across providers, as well as their lab results, diagnostics, allergies, medications and more. This will enable correction facility medical providers to better evaluate offenders at the time of entry and more efficiently share medical information with providers in communities after release. Use of NC HealthConnex is anticipated to allow for a more seamless transition to and from prison by reducing:
- Costs as staff spend less time spent searching for records or calling providers for medical histories
- Unnecessary and duplicative diagnostic and laboratory testing
- Delays in care by not repeating unnecessary tests and other studies
- The burden on corrections clinical staff, with more efficient data access and improved delivery of care
About the North Carolina Health Information Exchange Authority
In 2015, the N.C. General Assembly established the state-managed N.C. Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIEA) to oversee and administer the N.C. Health Information Exchange Network (NCGS 90-414.7). Housed within the N.C. Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Government Data Analytics Center (GDAC), NC HIEA operates North Carolina’s statewide health information exchange, NC HealthConnex. NC HealthConnex is a secure, standardized electronic system in which providers can share important patient health information. The use of this system promotes the access, exchange and analysis of health information to help improve care coordination, quality of care and enable better health outcomes. To learn more, visit hiea.nc.gov.