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January 13, 2016

The SHIN-NY: What's New, What's Next for the Statewide Health Information Network for New York

The Statewide Health Information Network for New York—better known to industry buffs as SHIN-NY (pronounced “shiny”)—reached an important milestone before 2015 reached its end.  The “network of networks” has successfully linked all nine Regional Health Information Organizations, or RHIOs, across the State.  With the massive, state-funded program now in place, New York is on the cusp of becoming an undisputed national leader in health-information technology.

The SHIN-NY, among other things, is a central hub—a way for a cardiologist in Manhattan to seamlessly and securely “talk” to a neurologist in Buffalo.

Currently, each of the nine RHIOs in New York are defined by boundaries.  HEALTHeLINK, for instance, collaborates with physicians, hospitals and insurance organizations to share clinical information in the eight counties of Western New York.  Concurrently, HealtheConnections is doing the same, except in Central New York.  The SHIN-NY is the technical infrastructure that permits a secure flow of information from one RHIO to another.  When securely connected to the SHIN-NY, the cardiologist in Manhattan will have complete and private access to the information gathered by the neurologist in Buffalo.  The expectations: fewer mistakes, fewer repeated tests and more informed decisions.

The SHIN-NY project, first announced in June 2012, was the vision of the former State Commissioner of Health, Nirav Shah.  Just two years from the month of its announcement, the Associated Press described New York as “quietly building one of the nation’s largest computer databases of medical records, a system that when finished . . . promises to save millions in costs by avoiding redundant tests and unneeded hospital admissions.”

Though not yet “finished”, the connection of all RHIOs represents a significant breakthrough in the development of the SHIN-NY.  It opens the door for the State’s next undertaking:  The expensive task of finding a way for independent physicians to connect their patient records to the central hub.  As of November 30, 2015, only 20 percent of clinical practices do so.  While the numbers for long-term care facilities (36 percent) and home care agencies (58 percent) are more promising, there are still significant gaps to be closed before the SHIN-NY reaches its vision.  On the other hand, 86 percent of hospitals and federally qualified health centers are linked.

Also worth mentioning is that, even when linked, only a patient decides who can see his or her records.  In other words, a patient must give consent to his or her provider.  As of the end of 2015, roughly 7.6 million New Yorkers have provided patient consent.

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