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SHARE Director and HIT Policy Director Latest to be Named Interoperability Heros with DirectTrust

Arkansas, April 2022 We recently sat down with representatives from Interop Hero Arkansas SHARE (State Health Alliance for Records Exchange).  Justin Villines (Policy Director) and Anne Santifer (Director) share more about their unique roles in supporting the organization’s mission, as well as some of the ways they’ve been using data exchange and education to drive efficiencies and support their communities.

Arkansas SHARE is a state-wide healthcare information exchange (HIE). It gathers secure medical information from different health care providers to help doctors across the state quickly access and share information to help make the best decisions for their patients. The main goal of Arkansas SHARE is to reduce provider burden (like submitting paper records) through expanded use of secure data exchange and education around new technology.

Arkansas SHARE has a good relationship with their provider community, according to Anne. Back when the Affordable Care Act was established, they did a few things differently, like expanding Medicaid, creating value-based programs and understanding that data would be a big part of their strategy. They also set up the first state-wide HIE in Arkansas as a stand-alone state office to connect providers and reduce the burden of having to seek out records.

Justin adds that introducing something new (like comprehensive data exchange technology), especially in Arkansas, is always a little overwhelming. He acknowledges that many steps need to be taken for an effective implementation, like educating providers and meeting clinicians where they’re at. After all, having a good HIE integration is key to provider success.

"We are really happy about using DirectTrustTM Secure Messaging with our reports…About one-third of Arkansans are on Arkansas Medicaid. So it’s a large population, and we’re notifying and pushing alerts and reports out to the providers when they need it."

Justin emphasizes that the technical infrastructure is there, but it’s all about using the processes in place and pushing that awareness out across all communities. Arkansas SHARE is proud to be its state-wide HIE that brings interoperability and education to all corners of the state.

As Arkansas SHARE’s workflow expert, Justin is responsible for educating new providers, showcasing their tools and processes, and finding ways to incorporate data into providers’ existing workflows. Once Justin and his team identify the services new clients will need (Direct Secure Messaging, reports, etc.) they figure out the best implementation method.

And finally, they spend a lot of time training that new staff, including offering continuing education (open forums, written materials, detailed screenshots). Justin has found there are plenty of new hires who come into an organization with little to no knowledge of how the HIE works. And that’s where his commitment to education becomes crucial to staff knowing what tools are available and how to use the data in ways that are most beneficial to patients.

Arkansas SHARE takes a refreshingly proactive approach to reach out to vendors and train even those outside their scope to make sure work is done as efficiently as possible. For example, not many HIEs take the time to train their providers on how to run a query of the data — but Arkansas SHARE does.

Justin adds that they have practice coaches from health plans who work with providers and care teams throughout the state. Arkansas SHARE makes a point to equip their partners with all the tools and resources available, so when those coaches are out and about in the community, they feel empowered to provide the support that’s needed. This is yet another way Justin and his team meet people where they’re at to help them understand the technology.

It’s clear Arkansas SHARE is dedicated to making sure providers in their state are comfortable and confident in their capabilities while taking advantage of interoperability to better serve patients in the community.

Anne and Justin (and everyone at the organization) have a lot to be proud of. We wanted to know if our two heroes have anything in particular they’re especially happy with.

Justin chimes in first and says he’s proud of the growth they’ve had over the years. They started with their first hospital (who they’re still working with today), and he says they now partner with 86 hospitals all throughout Arkansas. He also mentions they now have more than 24,000 facilities that use their data. Justin is excited about what’s to come in the future and how interoperability will continue to benefit the industry in new ways.

“Health information exchange really allows so much robust data that can really impact the overall community [and] the state — whether it be at the patient level, all the way to really controlling cost or looking at those outcomes.”

Anne is proud of their flexibility in being able to accommodate a community with changing needs. They were able to adapt current workflows to help providers during the pandemic (like sending targeted patient reports to providers). She’s also proud of the relationships they’ve built with health systems around their communities, as well as health plans and government agencies.

Anne credits their success in being well-received by their healthcare community to their approach of meeting people where they feel most comfortable. Arkansas SHARE understands that the HIE concept might be daunting for some folks. So instead of forcing the technology on people, Anne is confident that by slowly introducing them to the world of interoperability, the value will speak for itself and they’ll want more of it.

Reflecting on their provider relationships, Anne says the partners they work with are very supportive. For example, providers will connect with them about obstacles they’re experiencing in accessing patient information. And if it comes down to spending some money to streamline data accessibility, payers are willing to invest and support their clinics. Because at the end of the day, that’s one less chart they have to request from that provider.

And now, Arkansas SHARE is delivering charts to health plans for a variety of use cases — most of which used to require lots of faxing or phone calls. According to Anne, if the organization can help their community efficiently share data, then she feels they’re doing their job.

As our conversation comes to a close, Justin and Anne give us some final thoughts and words of wisdom. Anne starts by encouraging people to lean into the power of simplicity while being mindful not to overwhelm providers with data.

“Our philosophy has really been a push approach. And this is where Direct comes in. We have this unique way where we take attribution lists from the health plans and we create targeted reports right back to the providers only on those patients that are attributed to them…Direct has been a really good avenue to be able to push these targeted reports to the providers.”

Justin echoes the importance of simplicity and adds on the component of committed education around how to use the technology and data in a way that benefits their workflow, as well as their patients. “Even though it’s simple, you still have to understand and work with them,” he says. The combination of simplicity and personalized support seems to be their sweet spot for success. And with a track record like theirs, we can’t disagree!

Thank you to Justin Villines and Anne Santifer of Arkansas SHARE for sharing their experience and perspective with us!

Learn more about the Interoperability Hero Initiative and check out our third class of Interoperability Heroes.