California Announces Health Data Exchange Framework

Published On: August 1, 2022

The secure exchange of health information is a crucial and delicate practice that affects every Californian, and according to CalHHS, the state has established a new process for how your personal data will be shared. 

California Health & Human Services Agency (CalHHS) Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly released a statement earlier this month promoting the state’s new Health and Human Services Data Framework. 

The framework serves as a single data sharing agreement and “common set of policies and procedures” that–starting in 2024–will facilitate and govern the process in which health information is shared between health care entities and government agencies. 

“Our state has big, bold plans for transforming care, expanding coverage, and improving connections between health care and social services,” Dr. Ghaly said. “The Data Exchange Framework moves our state to a place where every Californian—no matter where we live—can walk into a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, a county social service agency or an emergency room and be assured providers can access the information they need to care for them safely, knowing their data will remain private and secure and that all of their health and social needs will be met.”

The Data Exchange Framework was spurred on by the Feb. 2021 passage of Assembly Bill 133, which necessitated the development of a guideline and rules for secure data exchange prior to July 2022. 

Exchanging health information is far from a new concept in California–sharing data is common practice in certain parts of the state–but the Data Exchange Framework may narrow the divide and help citizens statewide gain access to the best possible health care. 

Prior to this agreement, data exchange has been voluntary for parts of California’s health care. 

“This voluntary patchwork imposes burdens on providers and patients, limits the health care ecosystem from making material advances in equity and quality, and functionally inhibits patient access to personalized, longitudinal health records,” reads the agreement. “Further, a lack of clear policies and requirements to share data between payers, providers, hospitals, and public health systems is a significant hindrance to addressing public health crises, as demonstrated by challenges inherent to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In some parts of the state’s health care system, delicate health care information is shared on paper via mail or fax rather than electronically. 

According to the agreement, health care entities required to participate in the exchange include:

  • General acute care hospitals
  • Physician organizations and medical groups
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Health service plans
  • Disability insurers
  • Medi-Cal managed care plans
  • Clinical laboratories
  • Acute psychiatric hospitals

The next steps include CalHHS forming a governance structure within their agency by 2023 to oversee the data exchange and ensure that it abides by federal law. 

The 2022-23 State Budget allocates $50 million for the CalHHS Center for Data Insights and Innovations (CDII) to “provide technical assistance to small or under-resourced Providers” and another $200 million for grants and technical assistance to “allow small physician practices to upgrade their clinical infrastructure that facilitate data collection and reporting. 

Ideally, this agreement will upend a system that enables a direct correlation between social and economic factors and medical outcomes. 

“Imagine your loved one ends up in an emergency room outside of their community with providers they don’t know,” Dr. Ghaly said. “Wouldn’t you want those treating someone in your family or community to know their history, their medical needs, and their medications? 

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org