March 24, 2021
Dear Dr. Pan and Vice Chair Melendez,
Connecting for Better Health, a coalition that supports the creation of a statewide health information exchange (HIE) network in California, writes to you today to express our views on SB 371 (Caballero).
As a coalition representing consumer groups, health care providers and health plans dedicated to the advancement of HIE policy in California, we acknowledge the author’s efforts in this area. Yet SB 371 prevents us from realizing all the potential benefits of health information exchange infrastructure to patients, equity, public health, and system transformation. We respectfully request that the chairs consider our recommendations for establishing a statewide HIE, as outlined below. In developing this response, we incorporated the coalition’s policy goals that underpin all our work:
- Compel every provider and health plan to share needed data so that the whole care team, regardless of where they are in the state, has the information they need to serve their patients.
- Secure an ongoing source of funding. Other states have leveraged available federal funding to build robust health information exchange infrastructure. It is time for California to do the same.
- Provide for needed statewide data sharing infrastructure while leveraging regional efforts, making sure every stakeholder has the appropriate support to participate.
We are supportive of the effort to create a California Health Information Technology Advisory Committee and a Deputy Secretary for Health Information Technology position within California Health and Human Services (CHHS), both of which would ensure state leadership and ongoing stakeholder input on health IT efforts across the state. We also support the call for the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to apply for Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA) funding to ensure that California maximizes its federal match dollars in supporting our state’s data infrastructure. Lastly, we support the effort to require CHHS to provide funding and technical assistance to providers so that we can secure the resources organizations need to share data.
However, SB 371 does not go far enough to build statewide infrastructure and ensure provider and health plan participation in HIE. Achieving a statewide HIE network is crucial to ensuring we realize our collective goal of attaining health equity and facilitating the sharing of data for public health purposes—a need highlighted by our state’s testing and vaccination response. In the March 2 Assembly Health Committee hearing chaired by Assemblymember Wood, several expert panelists voiced support for building a statewide health data infrastructure that could be leveraged to improve the public health response to this pandemic and other crises, such as wildfires and earthquakes. An expert also emphasized that to address systemic health disparities based on race, providers need better insights on which patients are high risk for certain conditions, need preventive care, require follow up care, or are not vaccinated—all of which could be achieved with a statewide HIE network. Further, all healthcare providers and health plans need to participate in statewide HIE for HIE to be truly successful. Without a requirement for broad participation, patient health data will continue to be locked within systems and plans, hindering our ability to improve individual and population health. These policy solutions are critical if we are sincere about shoring up our public health infrastructure and meeting the state’s equity mandate.
We thank you for your commitment to the health and safety of every California community and for your leadership on this incredibly important issue. We are happy to provide the committee with more information.
The Connecting for Better Health Coalition