An Interview with Lynn O’Mara, Nevada’s State HIT Coordinator
The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced in late June the roll out of NV Direct, a secure, encrypted communication system that will allow clinical staff to connect over the web.
Nevada State Health IT Coordinator Lynn O’Mara spelled out the goals for the system, which include protecting the privacy and security of patients, while allowing for protected health information to be shared between clinical professionals.
Although the goals for the system seem clear, Nevada has taken additional measures to protect patient confidentiality by keeping the system opt-in, meaning that patient must first consent to having their protected health records shared.
In May 2013, the non-profit Nevada Health Information Exchange Board of Directors named David LaBarge its first Chief Executive Officer as the state ramps up implementation of new health IT systems as part of the 2009 federal stimulus. The goals for the state include the establishment of a statewide HIE system and adoption of electronic health records, plans that remain in early development.
Lynn O’Mara has worked with the State of Nevada for over nine years and was first appointed as the State Health IT Coordinator in September 2009. Her background in program management has championed better access to health services for Nevadans and she worked as the Health Division legislative liaison to the Nevada State Legislature.
In an effort to gain deeper insight into the roll out of health IT services in Nevada, we spoke briefly with Lynn as part of a two-part interview with Nevada HIT officials.
HITC: Lynn, could you tell me a little bit more about your background with the State of Nevada and your roles and responsibilities as the State HIT Coordinator?
Lynn O’Mara: Per the ARRA HITECH State HIE Cooperative Agreement, the State HIT Coordinator’s role is two-fold: 1) develop and advocate for policy to achieve a successful implementation of the State HIE Cooperative Agreement and required ONC-approved State Strategic and Operations Health IT Plan (State Health IT Plan) http://dhhs.nv.gov/PDFs/HIT/NVStateHIEPlan.pdf and 2) coordinate Health IT and HIE initiatives and efforts with Medicaid, federal partners, state agencies and stakeholders. In Nevada, the State HIT Coordinator is also the Program Manager for the State HIE Cooperative Agreement, including the implementation of Nevada’s State Health IT Plan, on behalf of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the State HIE Cooperative Agreement grantee.
HITC: Nevada is currently in the process of selecting your Health Information Exchange (HIE) vendor, how’s that going and what were some of the important areas for Nevada in putting together your RFP?
LO: The non-profit Nevada Health Information Exchange (NV-HIE), under a sub-recipient grant from Nevada DHHS for implementing certain components of Nevada’s ONC-approved State Health IT Plan, has released an RFP for an HIE Technical Solution and Services. A vendor award will be made by early Aug. The RFP includes the requirements of the ARRA HITECH State HIE Cooperative Agreement and State Health IT Plan, as per our State HIE Cooperative Agreement.
HITC: When do you expect the Health Information Exchange to be operational and what services will be available for providers who participate?
LO: The NV-HIE robust services are expected to go live during the 4th calendar quarter of this year. For more information, please see the NV-HIE RFP: http://nv-hie.org/rfp/rfp-doc/
HITC: You mentioned earlier that EHR adoption rates in Nevada are on the lower side, what do you think is the reason for this and what is Nevada doing to tackle these issues?
LO: It is purely financial, as Nevada’s economy was one of the hardest hit during the recession, and our recovery has been slower than anticipated. Both the Governor and State Legislature have been working together on initiatives to stabilize and improve Nevada’s overall economic situation.
HITC: Nevada has legislated to participate in Medicaid expansion starting in 2014, how has this impacted the States HIT Strategy for providers?
LO: At this time, the impact is unknown.
We’ll return with the second part of our Nevada HIT investigation, which includes an interview with George McNeil, Information Technology Officer for the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.