Interoperability Insights: Demonstrating the Need and the Benefits of Connecting Health and Human Services

The Stewards of Change Institute (SOCI) has just released an important new Issue Brief, to which I contributed research and writing, titled “Interoperability Insights: Demonstrating the Need and the Benefits of Connecting Health and Human Services.” This paper examines the technical aspects of interoperability required to support integrated care and case management across multiple domains, including health, human services, education, housing, food and justice.

Such integration is being required for many national, regional, state and local initiatives, such as Integrated Care for Kids (InCK), the ONC’s Leading Edge Acceleration Projects (LEAP), and a variety of multidisciplinary efforts by the Veterans Administration and Veterans Health Administration, the Visiting Nurses Association, United Way, and many others.

Multidisciplinary integration is especially critical today given the urgency of the coronavirus pandemic. This historic public health emergency clearly demonstrates the need to enable connections between social and health-related services to better assist a huge and growing number of people, most notably within racial and socioeconomic groups that were vulnerable even before the crisis arose.

The nation’s healthcare system, particularly for children, faces significant challenges in identifying and addressing risk factors for complex physical, behavioral and mental health conditions. That is largely because the earliest signs of a problem — such as chronic absenteeism, behavioral issues in school or problematic family situations known to child welfare programs — may present outside of clinical care.

To tackle these challenges, the InCK program proposes the integration of care coordination and case management across physical, behavioral and mental health, as well as other core services for children. Such coordination would enable more-holistic and -effective child- and family-centered care through enhanced information sharing, integration and infrastructure across a spectrum of service silos, including (but not limited to) health, mental health, child welfare, education and law enforcement.

SOCI’s Issue Brief uses InCK, an initiative funded by the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), to illustrate the far-broader need for interoperability and information-sharing across programs, systems and domains. InCK’s work is in sync with another SOCI initiative, a unique Proof-of-Concept effort called Project Unify, which is being created to demonstrate how information can be exchanged routinely, reliably and securely between the Health and Social Services domains, among others.

The intent of both SOCI’s new paper and of the InCK initiative is basically the same, and it’s an important one: to provide practical guidance, tools and models that can be leveraged, replicated and improved over time to address the enormous and growing need for coordinated care across our nation.


Brian Handspicker

Brian Handspicker, a key participant in Project Unify, is the Technical Lead for the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) Health Community of Interest. He is a subject matter expert on mapping and modeling of information between clinical healthcare standards and non-clinical domains.