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Amazon-powered Data Fusion Center could shed light on who isn’t using telehealth – and why

The National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved, a nonprofit organization geared toward advancing health equity and economic viability, recently launched a new platform aimed at building actionable insights from social determinants of health data.  

The Data Fusion Center uses de-identified data, along with publicly available information, to allow greater understanding of the ways different SDOH intersect.  

This can be particularly useful, said NHIT leaders, when it comes to investigating disparities in access to virtual care.  

“When utilization metrics are combined with other nontraditional clinical data points, such as broadband access and speed, access to public transportation, the location of physical points of care such as hospitals and pharmacies,” Luis Belen, NHIT CEO, told Healthcare IT News.  

“We believe this will help identify and highlight gaps and opportunities that lead to actionable recommendations for policymakers, healthcare organizations and even communities themselves on how telehealth can be enhanced for underserved communities.”  

Overlapping injustices and inequities – including denial of access to safe housing, grocery stores, transportation and clean water – can all play a role in the health of an individual and community.   

The Center aims to shed light on the ways these factors may affect wellness, using de-identified data from state and federal agencies, as well as open data repositories from private companies such as Change Healthcare.  

“Our long-term goal is that the Fusion Center will become the central repository for all SDoH data,” explained Belen, who did not respond to questions about how privacy may play a role.  

One area of particular interest is telehealth use. NHIT is a member of the Telehealth Equity Coalition, formed earlier this year with a focus on working to address the digital divide in virtual care. With that in mind, Belen said, the Fusion Center could offer insight as to who is using telemedicine – and who is being left behind.  

“One goal of the Fusion Center is to help monitor the utilization of telehealth services,” he said.  

“When utilization metrics are combined with other nontraditional clinical data points, such as broadband access and speed, access to public transportation, [and] the location of physical points of care such as hospitals and pharmacies,” he explained.   

“We believe this will help identify and highlight gaps and opportunities that lead to actionable recommendations for policymakers, healthcare organizations and even communities themselves on how telehealth can be enhanced for underserved communities,” said Belen.   

Policymakers, he said, can then use such information to gain understanding about issues that are important to their constituents.  

“Imagine that within a policymaker’s district there is a lack of access to clean water, hospital services, or low-cost public transit,” said Belen. “The Fusion Center can assist in generating data-informed metrics and recommendations based on the aggregation of local government data, neighboring city and county data, as well as state and other federal agency data.”  

The Center is deployed on Amazon Web Services, which also provided computing credits and operational support in its deployment and ongoing enhancements. In the shorter term, Belen says he hopes the Center will play a role in the standardization of open data formats for SDoH – including potential electronic health record integration in the future.  

“Every dataset on the Fusion Center has its own unique API endpoint that can transmit data to an external source. We are currently exploring protocols (FHIR/HL7) that could be utilized to further standardize each asset into an interoperable format that could be easily consumed by EHRs,” he said.

“We welcome partners or anyone who wants to collaborate with us on this effort,” he added. “The goal is to make SDoH data available to as many institutions that have traditionally not had access to this level of rich and insightful data.”

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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