Compiled by John Joseph Parker, Contributing Editor
THE NEW JERSEY INNOVATION Institute (NJII), an NJIT corporation, has teamed with the New Jersey Department of Health to field new technology called the Master Person Index, to securely connect and share patient information under the New Jersey Health Information Network (NJHIN).
NJHIN—which offers the ability to seamlessly connect medical records across any and all healthcare providers, ensuring the information is accurate, up-to-date and secure—employs a two-tiered Master Person Index that identifies an individual with multiple records, even when they’re maintained by different providers and health systems.
This is accomplished through a verification process that separates such re-cords and then matches them to a single person by assigning them a “common key.” Interoperability, or the capacity to share patient information across electronic health records and networks, is the goal of this statewide index, with nationwide expansion being the ultimate objective.
“This data exchange network has successfully identified patients and maintained data quality and security,” says New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “The Master Person Index gives medical professionals the ability to accurately identify patients and link critical medical information to their records, regardless of where care is provided. This improves safety, reduces medical errors and duplicative testing, helps prevent fraud and reduces healthcare spending.”
Interoperability has been a high priority in the healthcare industry for nearly a decade and is one of the main objectives of the NJHIN based on its benefits to the overall population. Simply put, interoperability will help save lives. By promoting healthcare delivery through an efficient exchange of patient data, the end result is the added benefit of higher quality care at a lower cost.
For example, if one needs emergency care while on vacation and is unable to remember their current list of medications, through interoperability-driven technology, providers could access and review the individual’s medical history, and quickly determine the best course of action to take. This secure data sharing reduces duplicate testing and could prevent potentially life-threatening drug interactions.
Two recently launched initiatives, the Common Key Service and Master Person Index Use Cases, are part of NJHIN’s objective of connecting a person’s identity across different systems. Bergen New Bridge Medical Center is in a unique position to participate due to its specialized service line in Behavioral Health. If a patient arrives in the emergency department requiring acute behavioral health services and is subsequently admitted for inpatient care, having access to their complete medical records ensures treatment decisions are made based on the patient’s medical history. This prevents a patient from receiving care that could negatively impact them or run counter to treatment received by other providers. Being one of the first to adopt this technology affords Bergen New Bridge Medical Center an advantage in promoting interoperability throughout the state, thus providing better quality care to its patients.
“Bergen New Bridge Medical Center has been a pioneer in several NJHIN projects, including being the first organization to transmit data through the system,” says Van Zimmerman, executive director of the NJHIN. “Joining 62 of the 71 hospitals in the state, they have stepped up to move New Jersey forward in the interoperability movement by signing on to participate in the Master Person Index and Common Key Service Use Cases.”