Electronic health information exchange (HIE) allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other health care providers and patients to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically—improving the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care.
Despite the widespread availability of secure electronic data transfer, most Americans’ medical information is stored on paper—in filing cabinets at various medical offices, or in boxes and folders in patients’ homes. When that medical information is shared between providers, it happens by mail, fax or—most likely—by patients themselves, who frequently carry their records from appointment to appointment. While electronic health information exchange cannot replace provider-patient communication, it can greatly improve the completeness of patient’s records, (which can have a big effect on care), as past history, current medications and other information is jointly reviewed during visits.
Appropriate, timely sharing of vital patient information can better inform decision making at the point of care and allow providers to
- Avoid readmissions
- Avoid medication errors
- Improve diagnoses
- Decrease duplicate testing
If a practice has successfully incorporated faxing patient information into their business process flow, they might question why they should transition to electronic health information exchange. Many benefits exist with information exchange regardless of the means of which is it transferred. However, the value of electronically exchanging is the standardization of data. Once standardized, the data transferred can seamlessly integrate into the recipients’ Electronic Health Record (EHR), further improving patient care. For example:
- If laboratory results are received electronically and incorporated into a provider’s EHR , a list of patients with diabetes can be generated. The provider can then determine which of these patients have uncontrolled blood sugar and schedule necessary follow-up appointments.1