How much time and money do you spend trying to find information about your patients? Are you frustrated by the difficulties in obtaining patient medical records, test results, lab reports, radiology results, and insurance eligibility from organizations across state lines, down the street, or even across the hall? Do you ever order redundant tests simply because you are unable to access the results of tests ordered by another member of the care team?
You are not alone.
A patient’s health information is typically scattered across many different places and is most often stored as a single piece of paper, without a backup copy. Even when this information is stored electronically, there is no guarantee that one computer system will be able to communicate with to another, so the information must be printed and then faxed or mailed to another practice, where the administrative staff will hand-enter the information into the computer system.
But what if searching for a patient’s information was as quick and easy as using Google to find the weather report for your city? What if that search returned information from all the providers and laboratories that the patient has visited, giving you the information you need, when you need it? Would that save you time and money, as well as enable you to provide better care based on accurate and complete information?
The benefits of appropriate sharing of health information among physicians and other authorized participants are nearly universally understood and desired, and we may be closer than you think to achieving the electronic exchange of health information on a large scale.
What Is Health Information Exchange?
Health information exchange (HIE) is a way to move a patient’s health information securely from one member of the care team to another, with patient consent and according to nationally recognized privacy and confidentiality standard procedures.
HIE not only refers to the active movement of health information but can also refer to the organizational governance and structure facilitating the exchange. These organizations (often called regional health information organizations or RHIOs) focus on both the functional and governance structure required to provide the capability to effectively and efficiently move and translate clinical information among the many health information systems that do not communicate with each other. These organizations are typically geographically defined entities that develop and manage the legal and technical requirements for moving health information among providers within the community.