Musings from Community Information Exchange (CIE) Summit 2019

By Jeffrey Greene, Product Manager.

In recent years, the healthcare industry has been active around Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) – the idea that a person’s overall well-being is comprised of not just their physical “health”, but also their social, emotional and economic situation (also known, in some regions, as Whole Person Care).  Especially in more vulnerable populations, things like housing needs, food insecurity, financial problems, education level and employment potential have real effects on physical well-being, be it not having enough money to get medication, or the mental stress of choosing between paying rent or groceries.  Not to mention more acute cases where homelessness, substance abuse, and physical conditions like diabetes combine to severely debilitate a person’s overall wellness.

To better address these SDoH issues, the concept of the Community Information Exchange (CIE – similar to the Health Information Exchange (HIE) we as a company have worked on for so many years) has gained momentum, where caregivers and providers across the three domains of Healthcare, Behavioral Health, and Social Services can share data, communicate, and collaborate as a single Care Team, and not act as independent and fragmented silos.

CIE Summit Conversations Captured Through Mural Art

This year’s CIE Summit in San Diego was only the second year for this event, and brought together hundreds of Social Service Providers, Healthcare Providers, technologists, governmental policy administrators and others from across the US who are interested in (or already have) started implementing pilot CIE/SDoH programs.  In close collaboration with the nationally-renown Quality Health Network (QHN) in Western Colorado, Stella is currently building a CIE – called Community Resource Network (CRN) – so we were very eager to see the current state of this emerging field, learn from their experiences, and be inspired by the passion and ideas from thought leaders in this very active and innovative field.

Presentations from pilot programs in San Diego, Los Angeles, Marin, and Contra Costa counties showed both the incredible potential and daunting complexity of this undertaking.  There are technological challenges – integrating a wide range of data in various unstandardized and unstructured formats; there are usability challenges – users can easily be buried in too much data (which can be just as bad as not having enough data) if it is not organized and displayed clearly and intuitively; add in the bureaucracies of governmental regulations, the emotionally taxing work of community social workers, and issues of data privacy and consent, and you see an incredibly complex, multi-layered problem.

CIE 2019 Reception at the End of Day 2, with Dr. Rhea Boyd and Dr. Damon Francis
CIE 2019 Reception at the End of Day 2, with Dr. Rhea Boyd (second from left) and Dr. Damon Francis (fifth from left)

As if those challenges were not enough, a very powerful “Health Equity” panel discussion lead by physician thought leaders Dr. Rhea Boyd, Dr. Damon Francis and Dr. Rishi Manchanda went even deeper into asking “why” there is such inequality in health outcomes in the first place, and challenged us to do more than just “treat the symptoms” of SDoH by also attacking the cultural, structural, systemic and historical root cause “diseases” that lead to such health (and overall social) inequality. Wow, that was quite a lunch plenary session!

We look forward to sharing the advances of our own CIE/SDoH work on the CRN project as we move closer to our Pilot 1.0 release at the end of 2019.