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California embraces interoperability with first health data sharing agreement

The statewide health data sharing agreement is the first step toward a new era of interoperability across the region.
By admin
Feb 9, 2023, 9:00 AM

California is getting on board with interoperability by bringing together hundreds of healthcare providers, payers, and community-based organizations under a new health data sharing agreement. 

The agreement, overseen by the California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS), represents the first milestone in implementing the state’s Data Sharing Framework, designed to improve health equity and promote safer, more timely care for patients. 

Nineteen hospitals, more than 200 physician practices and medical groups, 18 health plans and disability insurers, 23 community-based organizations, and a number of other healthcare stakeholders all signed the agreement by the state-mandated deadline of January 31, 2023. 

“We believe that all Californians deserve the best possible care. The Data Exchange Framework delivers on that promise by promoting the secure exchange of health and social services information—a key step toward allowing every health care provider to access the information they need to treat patients quickly and safely, while also connecting health care, behavioral health, and social services agencies so they can deliver the services Californians rely on.” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.  

“January 31st marks the start of an exciting year to implement the Data Exchange Framework and improve health outcomes across our state. We look forward to health entities taking the first step by signing the Data Sharing Agreement and joining our shared commitment to a healthy California for all.”  

Establishing an interoperability framework for shared progress 

The framework includes eight foundational principles to guide the industry’s pursuit of greater interoperability. According to the panel of experts who developed the document, all data exchange activities should accomplish the mission of: 

  • Advancing health equity 
  • Making data available to drive decisions and outcomes
  • Supporting whole person care 
  • Promoting individual data access 
  • Reinforcing data privacy and security 
  • Establishing clear and transparent data governance 
  • Adhering to shared data exchange standards 
  • Ensuring accountability as stewards of sensitive data 

Providing technical assistance and oversight for participants 

The California State Legislature has agreed to invest $250 million to support these objectives, including $200 million toward clinical infrastructure upgrades for smaller physician groups, rural organizations, and other under-resources entities, including the implementation or optimization of EHR and care management systems with enhanced analytics and reporting capabilities. 

The remaining $50 million will go to the CalHHS Center for Data Insights and Innovations (CDII) to provide technical assistance to groups without access to necessary internal resources.   

CalHHS will also be responsible for creating a governance structure within the agency to oversee and coordinate activities across the continuum. This group will be responsible for recommending appropriate policy changes, maintaining compliance with state and federal regulations, and ensuring transparency and accountability as data flows more freely between partners. 

Focusing on health equity and care access for underserved populations 

Promoting participation from health plans and community-based organizations, not just direct care providers, may give California a leg up on its health equity goals.   

Increased interoperability between these entities can facilitate broader and more coordinated care, including digital exchange of referrals for socioeconomic services, and help California residents address more than just the clinical factors behind poor outcomes. 

“California’s health care system can be overwhelmingly fragmented, putting the burden on consumers to navigate complex systems and transport their own personal information such as medications, allergies or languages spoken from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy, to specialists and social services agencies. This leaves people frustrated, confused—or worse, without the care they need,” said Kiran Savage-Sangwan, Executive Director, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.  

“California’s new Data Sharing Agreement will help change that, giving patients access to their own health information and confidence their data will follow them from one provider to the next. We strongly support the state’s efforts to build a secure, statewide network of health information exchange—and we look forward to working with providers to ensure this new system promotes health equity for all Californians.” 

Over the coming months, signatories to the agreement will collaborate on adopting technical standards and developing shared workflows for information exchange to advance the state’s mission and improve the movement of health data across disparate systems.     

Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry.  Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system.  She can be reached at jennifer@inklesscreative.com.

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