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Health Information Exchange

HIE: The interoperable way to deliver quality healthcare

Finally, the concept of health information exchange is being more concretely defi ned and accepted by the healthcare community.

By Betty Otter-Nickerson T

he healthcare industry is undergoing major shifts that are changing the way things are done in medi- cal centers across America. We are witnessing a revolution in healthcare delivery as government initiatives and healthcare IT advancements are shifting the focus of information gathering from the provider to the pa- tient and from each individual practice to a national, more connected healthcare community. Electronic health records (EHRs) are the focal point of that shift, allowing practices and hospitals to provide improved patient care through greater workfl ow effi ciency. Additionally, EHR technology allows patients to be more involved in their healthcare and to have 24/7 access to their physicians through the patient portal. The next leap in this transition will consist of increasing the interchange of healthcare data through health informa- tion exchange (HIE), which encourages practices, hospitals and providers to participate in providing the patient with solid continuity of care.

Betty Otter-Nickerson is president of

Sage Healthcare Division. For more on

Sage Healthcare solutions:

HIE has been developing in one way or another for years, though it is only now that this concept is being more concrete- ly defi ned and accepted by the healthcare community. This can be largely attributed to meaningful use and its incentive to implement EHRs. However, as an industry, we have yet to really see the power of this technology. The reason it hasn’t reached its full capabilities lies in the lack of connectivity that currently reins the healthcare space. Hospitals and practices are transitioning to faster, more effi cient methods but, for patients and physicians to fully enjoy the advantages of an interoperable healthcare system, all the parties involved in HIE have to come together and reach a consensus on issues such as a standardized format in the sharing of information. Nonetheless, HIE is moving forward and is here to stay. HIE offers a wealth of benefi ts for both patients and physi- cians alike. When medical teams have the ability to exchange information about a patient electronically, the care given becomes more homogenous and continuous. Physicians can, with the click of a button, look up a patient’s entire history

and have a comprehensive view of their health. This allows doctors to make more informed decisions, thus improving the quality of care and potentially generating better outcomes. Another major advantage of HIE is its security benefi ts, especially in the event of an unpredictable natural disaster – think Joplin this past May. Hospitals across the country are susceptible to such destructive events. Medical centers that have been hit by a natural disaster understand the importance of having a health record system that ensures patients’ histories will remain intact, regardless of how bad the hospital or practice is damaged. Medical centers across the country have experienced the terrible consequences of losing medical records, including serious fi nancial penalties if the security of their records is breached, and the tedious and very expensive task of recompiling a massive amount of patients’ health information.

For patients and physicians to fully enjoy the advantages of an interoperable healthcare system, all the parties involved in HIE have to come together and reach a consensus on issues.

However, when health histories are kept electronically, they are backed up in a secure location. This ensures that, no matter what happens to the hospital or practice building, the patients’ histories will be safe and accessible to other physicians in an HIE-affi liated hospital or practice, thus providing improved and effi cient patient service and, most importantly, much needed continuity of care during those diffi cult times. Patients, above all else, must be the focus of our healthcare system, and HIE is one of the ways the healthcare IT industry is helping doctors concentrate on the people they serve and deliver the best possible care.


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