Bridging the Gap Between Healthcare and Technology to Find a Solution for COVID-19 Testing Capacity and Result Tracking
Charles Halfpenny has been a leader at the forefront of clinical data interoperability for more than 30 years. He pioneered computer-based medical records in 1987 with the creation of Dr. Chart EHR system, the first commercially available EMR to feature laboratory order entry and results reporting. He has since been an industry expert on lab and hospital integration to physician EHRs and he continues to lead the industry in delivering technology solutions instrumental to improving care coordination.
In 2000 Mr. Halfpenny founded Halfpenny Technologies, focused on providing a cloud-based, secure, scalable, vendor-neutral clinical data exchange platform to hospitals, health systems, health plans and commercial laboratories that would facilitate a variety of clinical workflows, including lab and radiology. Today, the platform has been proven in high volume and complex environments and recently taken center stage as Halfpenny Technologies, a subsidiary of Accumen Inc., launches a COVID-19 Regional Network to highlight areas within a specific geography with testing capacity as well as routing results to all appropriate healthcare providers and government agencies. We spoke to Mr. Halfpenny after he participated in a recent panel discussion for Modern Healthcare with other healthcare leaders, including Dr. Mark McClellan, Dr. John Mattison and former LabCorp Diagnostics CEO, Gary Huff, asking him to specifically share the problem a regional network solves for.
Typically, an order comes into a laboratory and the result goes back to the ordering provider, period. In the COVID-19 environment, we need to have the ability to route results to all the parties participating in managing the response. That would include the ordering providers, State and County public health departments, and entities performing contact tracing on behalf of public health. We can do this through current electronic orders and results exchanges via traditional interfaces leveraging what is in place versus building something new.
A report from the Duke Margolis Center on data interoperability and exchange noted that today up to 50% of lab results submitted to public health labs lack critical patient address and zip code information. Another area a network like the one Mr. Halfpenny created addresses.
Gathering patient information is a challenge. Especially using paper forms where handwriting and subsequent human error in transcription cause significant issues from test collection to result delivery. We are seeing this a lot even today at drive-up collection points. Many physician practices will order on paper if they are a lower volume user of a lab. In addition to address information, the patient insurance information, phone number, other contact details need to be correctly collected. An effective network addresses all of these issues from step one, at the ordering location. The laboratory will not need to call a practice for clarification, call the patient for information and miss a call back and so on. A regional hub leverages the existing EHR or telehealth app to capture all this information. No follow-up questions, phone calls, long wait times for testing or turn-around times for results. None.
Sounds amazing. What else can it do?
The network also serves as a back-up of submitted orders, cataloguing the mandatory required data for future use cases. Mr. Halfpenny shared a few examples of how the network can employ a variety of different mechanisms to communicate back to the ordering system, including: requesting information, a modification to an order or not allowing a provider to continue forward with an order until other information is made available.
Our network has a strong library of adapters available to work with the most common systems that in the surrounding area. The adapters help to normalize differences, like practices or ordering locations with no ordering system. All you need is a web-based portal to participate, allowing even drive-thru testing sites to have the appropriate edit checks in place. Using an established website or app, patients preregister for testing. We have also been in discussions with a few organizations about scanning the 2D barcodes on the back of most driver’s licenses to capture a patient’s registration information.
From Potential Solution to Inherent Need
As Mr. Halfpenny explains it, regardless of COVID-19, the network appears to be a solution that healthcare needs, connecting every step if the care continuum he has spent his career working to improve. Now, in the face of a pandemic, the network is essential to mitigating further spread in the simplicity of faster turnaround from test to result and reporting. Mr. Halfpenny continues, noting that this work is just the foundation of the network’s capabilities. The real value is in what the de-identified information can be aggregated to tell us about the availability of testing in a local area.
If you provide hospitals with a straightforward mechanism to publish their capacity daily, and options to update this information throughout the day to address availability of reagents or a platform going down, you allow the health system the ability to communicate capacity for testing to the community.
As our daily news has begun to cover the topic of contact tracing more in recent weeks, we asked Mr. Halfpenny to weigh in on the network’s support of these efforts.
The primary goal of capacity tracking is to ensure turnaround times can support the regions contact tracing goals. You can connect an ordering location with a performing lab that is closer, has capacity, and has shown acceptable turnaround times over the last couple of days.
To date we have seen health plans offering contact tracing assistance and companies like Salesforce committing technology resources, and Apple and Google joining forces, all wanting to be part of the solution. As regional data is the next key to developing a successful network, New York City just announced a partnership with Salesforce to lead the charge.
Thanks to innovators like Mr. Halfpenny, and companies like Halfpenny Technologies, a subsidiary of Accumen Inc., healthcare is on its way to getting better. It is incumbent on all ordering and testing providers now to join the network so it can deliver its capabilities by illustrating your capacity and results. Spread the word, not the virus.