NC HIE Partnership Targets Care Coordination for Incarcerated Persons

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Posted on November 7th, 2022 by Sarai Rodriguez

A partnership between North Carolina’s (NC) Department of Public Safety, Department of Adult Correction, and HIE will address care coordination needs following the release from incarceration.

The North Carolina (NC) Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) and the future NC Department of Adult Correction will connect to HealthConnex, the statewide health information exchange (HIE), in efforts to increase access to health information of incarcerated persons and enhance care coordination.

“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 NC Department of Adult Correction is the next step in ensuring better, more informed care for some of the state’s most vulnerable populations,” NC HIEA Executive Director Christie Burris, said in a press release. “NC HealthConnex equips providers with the records and information to understand their patients’ needs, appropriately diagnose and treat them and coordinate their care.”

States are constitutionally mandated to provide people in prisons with necessary healthcare access, and that includes participation with HIEs in order to address care gaps during transitions of care.

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Without electronic access to incarcerated patient health history, providers have previously had to rely upon self-reported medical records, the press release stated.

“It’s a challenge across the health care industry for patients, whether they are incarcerated individuals or private citizens, to keep track of their list of medications or their most recent diagnosis,” Burris told StateScoop reporters. “Not everyone is health-fluent.”

Now connected to the statewide HIE, North Carolina providers will be able to gain a more complete view of increased patient healthcare history by accessing lab results, diagnostics, allergy lists, medications, and other personal health information.

Additionally, this will enable correction facility medical clinicians to provide more knowledgeable care to the nearly 30,000 incarcerated patients in the state’s 55 correctional facilities. This will also facilitate better care coordination, as incarceration disrupts the continuity of care for patients transitioning in and out of the criminal justice system.

Alongside obtaining greater data access, using NC HealthConnex is anticipated to reduce cost, duplicate laboratory testing, care delayers, and provider burden.

“Connecting access to health records will provide better health outcomes and enhance overall public health in the community,” Gary Junker, MD, director of health and wellness for NCDPS Prisons, said.

Most criminal and community healthcare information systems are disconnected. The advancements state and local healthcare delivery systems have made are far past those of correctional healthcare.

According to a 2019 study, less than five percent of corrections facilities departments could send patient medical records through email or EHR.

Just in 2021, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDC) completed a statewide EHR implementation to boost health data interoperability for care coordination.

Prior to the system implementation, FDC had a paper-based medical health record system, and all medical history inquiries were completed on paper forms. For another correctional facility to gain access to a patient’s health record, FDC officials had to manually scan and fax the paper document.

“Implementing an electronic medical records system has been a priority project for the Department,” Florida Department of Corrections Secretary, Mark Inch, said in a public statement at the time. “I am very pleased to see this long-term goal meet its target and to begin to use this important technology.”