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.
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Explore This IssueFebruary 2010
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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.
It is important to explain that, with the patient’s permission, electronic records and HIE organizations will enable the practice to share information over the Internet with other doctors and members of the patient’s care team—including hospitals, labs, and pharmacies—providing direct benefit to the patient by relieving many of the burdens he or she might experience within the fragmented healthcare system. These burdens include continual filing of medical history forms, redundant testing, and the necessity to keep multiple running lists of current and past medications and allergies.
As you are engaging your patients, you can expect that their responses will be mixed and largely dependent on social factors such as age and access to—and comfort with—computer systems. You can help to ease the transition to a patient EHR by engaging patients in open dialogue that will relay the benefits of a portable electronic record and address their concerns.
Most HIE organizations offer brochures to help physicians educate their patients on the opportunities and benefits available to them through electronic health data interchange. Additionally, many national organizations and patient-centered organizations have developed programs and tools to help get patients on board and active in data exchange as active members of the care team.
Linking the Healthcare Team
Through rapid and secure access to a patient’s important health data at the point of care, providers will no longer have to settle for a simple patient snapshot at the time of scheduled visits, but will be able to see the full picture and engage their patients in the journey.
Through the individual adoption of health-related information systems, key stakeholders in the U.S. health system have taken the first step toward establishing an effective and efficient method of communication that links the healthcare team through the movement of electronic health data.
Are You Ready to Get Connected?
These initial steps provide a basic outline for preparing your practice and patients for health information exchange. For more information on health information technology in your practice, contact Itara Barnes at [email protected].
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Individual Membership: Chapters. Available at: www.himss.org/ASP/chaptersHome.asp. Accessed December 17, 2009.
- State Level HIE Consensus Project. Profiles of State Level HIE Efforts. Available at: www.slhie.org/efforts.asp. Accessed December 17, 2009.
- National Association of State Chief Information Officers. State CIOs. Available at: www.nascio.org/aboutNASCIO/stateCIOs. Accessed December 17, 2009.
- eHealth Initiative. Directory of Health Information Exchange Initiatives. Available at: www.ehealthinitiative.org/directory-health-information-exchange-initiatives.html. Accessed December 17, 2009.