Before electronic health records (EHR), crucial medical information was recorded on paper and stored in providers’ offices or, more haphazardly, in patients’ homes.
EHRs are a far more secure and efficient method of storing valuable data. Just as important, though, is the role EHRs play in the facilitation of health information exchange (HIE). HIE allows caregivers and providers across the healthcare spectrum to electronically gain access to and share medical information. This greatly improves the cost, quality, safety and speed of medical care.
The benefits of HIE are many and include:
- Reducing errors to improve quality and safety of care
- Encouraging patients to take part in their own health care
- Eliminating unnecessary paperwork
- Providing caregivers with clinical decision support tools
- Eliminating redundant or unnecessary testing
- Improving public health monitoring and reporting
- Creating a potential feedback loop between health-related research and practice
- Efficient deployment of new healthcare technology and services
- Interoperability among EHRs maintained by individual physicians and organizations
- Lower healthcare costs.
To implement HIE, you’ll need to determine both your organization’s needs as well as what’s available to you in your location. Your first step will be contacting your state’s HIE representative. This information is available online at HealthIT.gov. Your state’s HIE representative will be able to direct you to available exchange service providers, and also provide information on the current status and progress of HIE modernization in your state.
Once you’ve identified your available exchange service providers, you’ll need to contact each to determine which one is the best fit for your organization.
Service providers differ in the services they offer, as well as their advancement concerning HIE. Know your organization’s needs and goals so that you can determine how likely a provider is to help you meet them. You should leave the conversation knowing:
- What you’ll have to spend to establish and sustain your HIE
- HIE technology and which forms of the exchange yours supports
- Benefits, other than monetary, of the HIE
- Risks and liabilities involved with joining the HIE.
Next, you’ll need to talk with your vendor to find out of it has incorporated HIE into its EHR. Here are some important questions to discuss with your vendor:
- Does your EHR have HIE capabilities?
- What are its privacy and security features?
- What exchange form or forms does your EHR support?
- How much will it cost to include HIE within our EHR?
- If HIE functionality isn’t currently available, when will it be?