Wegman letterThe CEO of a family-owned grocery store chain wrote a letter to New York State lawmakers to support $65 million worth of spending on a computer system for health information in the state.

That grocer is Danny Wegman, and that project is the Statewide Health Information Network, aka SHIN-NY.

In his letter beginning, “Dear New York Legislator,” Wegman identifies several benefits he expects would flow out of the health IT project:

1. Improve health care for all New Yorkers

2. Lower health care costs, through reducing hospital readmission rates and reducing duplicate testing.

3. Lead to health data “liquidity” (my word).

It’s easy to understand #1 and #2. But what does the movement of health information across a state data pipeline/network have to do with improving health?

Wegman explains in the third paragraph: “When a patient’s providers use electronic health records, they have access to a patient’s uploaded medical information including medication, lab and radiology reports. This can be critical in emergency room situations if a patient is unconscious or unable to communicate. It is also important for chronically ill patients who need several doctors to collaborate while addressing different aspects of their disease.”

Wegman then talks about the experience in the company’s headquarters town of Rochester NY, which has had a RHIO (regional health information organization) – a regional (13-county) version of what the SHIN would look like.

Wegman’s original letter is included here so you can read the details.

halfplateguideHealth Populi’s Hot Points:  “Data liberación!” is the excitable mantra of Todd Park, now Chief Technology Officer for the Obama White House and former CTO with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Wegman’s explanation is why Park cites his data liquidity mantra in whatever room he speaks in. We can’t manage what we don’t measure: moving health information out of paper files locked in metal cabinets means we can’t know the inputs into our health care, nor the outputs in terms of a patient’s health outcomes: did the patient survive? Did the patient return to work, have children, travel, play the piano again, run that self-promised marathon?

And how much did we spend on that patient? Was the course of treatment the most appropriate one, or could different “inputs” (drugs, procedures, hospital days, remote patient monitoring to the home, mobile health apps, physical therapy) be combined to drive an even better outcome?

That underlies Wegman’s and Park’s rationale for health information networks and data liquidity.

Mana-Health-Awarded-Contract-to-Build-Patient-Portal-for-New-YorkersGetting data more liquid also helps us in our daily lives as health citizen-consumer-patients, getting our own health data into our own hands. The Mana Health start-up is launching to do just, contracted to build a patient portal for New Yorkers. New Yorkers’ health data will flow through the SHIN and allow the states’ health citizens to access their own data, securely, through a website (portal) on computers, mobile phones and tablets. This puts peoples’ health data in their hands – enabling health engagement, activation and empowerment.

There’s another aspect that I would call out: Wegman is a leader in the food industry, and increasingly, people are making the connection between food and health. Wegmans operates pharmacies in their stores, often showcasing healthy foods right in the pharmacy across from over-the-county food medications. I recently say a display of quinoa near the blood-pressure kiosk in my local Wegmans pharmacy. Wegmans, like many other food chains, is also hiring nutritionists to help inform consumers’ healthy shopping lists.

Grocers are a link in our personal value-chains of supporting DIY health. For more on food = health in everyday life, visit Eat Right on HealthcareDIY.