Effective and efficient health information exchange has the potential to revolutionize rheumatology practices by simply delivering necessary patient information where and when it is needed in a complete and logical format. The list of its potential benefits—including streamlined administrative processes, efficient communication, and reduction of redundant testing—is limited only by the willingness of physicians to implement clinical and administrative technology and modify workflow to accommodate electronic processes.
In last month’s “From the College,” we explored the current landscape of health information exchange (HIE)—which is evolving from a time where patients’ information was typically scattered across many different places, most likely on paper without a backup copy, to a technically enabled system that is able to locate and aggregate vital patient-specific information for presentation where and when it is needed—including current initiatives that are aggressively expanding the reach of exchange organizations as well as efforts to make true interoperability and national data exchange a reality.
This month, we will dive into HIE on a local level and look at how practices and their patients can embrace health data exchange.
Embracing Data Exchange
Supported by funds from the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the reach of HIE organizations is rapidly expanding across the United States and giving more healthcare providers a tool that facilitates the movement of health information.
This leads to a common question: Once my practice is ready, how do we get connected? The first step to joining the digital community is to identify what exchange initiatives are active in your area. Physicians can find more information about HIE organizations in their area by contacting their state medical society, state or regional chapter of the Health Information Management Systems Society,1 reviewing the State-Level Consensus Project Web site2 for a listing of state initiatives, or by contacting the office of their state’s chief information officer.3 Practices can also find a listing of HIE initiatives located in the directory concluding the ehealth collaborative survey—a survey on the state of national health information exchange4.
Through local or regional HIE organizations, providers will be able to get support on a variety of issues including:
- Patient engagement;
- Patient privacy;
- Consent management;
- Data aggregation;
- Data reporting; and
- Data access.
The exchange organization will also provide details on the specific requirements for submitting and accessing data on their system.
Contrary to popular belief, many exchange organizations do not require the use of an electronic health record (EHR) to access and exchange data. However, EHR use is the first step to effectively and efficiently managing the retrieval, storage, and utilization of electronic data, so it is recommended that EHR selection and implementation take priority over data exchange.
To successfully begin sending and receiving health data, practices must develop and implement a plan for patient engagement. Because much of HIE depends on patient consent, your patients must understand the process of exchange, how they can benefit from exchange, how their data will be used, and how they can actively participate in the exchange through patient-centered health information technology, such as personal health record systems.