ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- As part of the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY), the Health Information Exchange of New York (Hixny), has been working with Departments of Health, hundreds of healthcare providers and hospitals to help identify patients with COVID-19. A formidable task considering this is a new virus, and symptoms of the coronavirus can present as other illnesses.

Hixny has grown and adapted to meet the needs of healthcare providers while playing an essential role in tracking COVID-19, says CEO, Mark McKinney.

“The challenge with the pandemic, right, is that COVID-19 is a brand new disease. A disease that people haven’t treated before. In fact that people didn’t know how to diagnose,” McKinney says. “Early on in the pandemic, even though we’re still early on in the cycle here, there really wasn’t even a way to identify whether or not people had the disease or not.”

Hixny is currently working on staying up to date with new developments and is preparing to help providers with contact tracing as well as identifying children with symptoms resembling the Coxsackievirus who may have COVID-19.

In early March, Hixny began working with the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to modify Hixny’s flu surveillance capabilities to track early COVID-19 cases in the region. Because the virus was so new and the need for testing outpaced supplies, providers were using very general codes to describe their findings. Working with our partners, Hixny reviewed the incoming data to understand how each facility was identifying patients with COVID-19. Rather than a diagnosis code specific to the new virus, providers were using general codes for things like upper respiratory infection or other infectious diseases, like SARS. When we started to see clusters of those codes in an individual patient record or a geographic area, we had to question whether it was related to COVID-19 or other viruses or conditions.

CEO Mark McKinney

“It’s really exciting to be able to support something and really, most importantly, find a way to support some of our front line workers who are really doing the lions share of the work to really bring this under control,” McKinney says. “We’re glad to do our little part where we do what we can to support them.”