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The Values, And Pitfalls, of Health Information Exchanges

Posted Nov 16 2010 10:00am

A Health information exchange (HIE) is defined as the transmission of healthcare information electronically across organizations within a community. HIE is an integral part of the health information technology (HIT) and enables reliable and secure transfer of healthcare-related data among disparate healthcare information systems. It also facilitates easy access and retrieval of data. The goal of HIE is to improve healthcare delivery and clinical data gathering to provide safer, more timely, efficient, effective, equitable, patient-centered care.

The value of health information exchange

Efficient health information transfer can improve the quality of healthcare and patient safety, as well as reduce costs and inefficiencies experienced by health care providers in patient care.

From the clinicians perspective health information exchange has positive impact on practices that require timely and effective access data. They can add value by:

· Improving access to test results that can improve efficiencies of practice.

· Improved quality of practice life ( e.g.; easy access to information and therefore less avoid frustration, time loss associating with searching for information)

· Avoiding duplication of tests

· Improving compliance with chronic care and prevention guidelines

· Reducing staff time on handling prescriptions

· Improving outcomes in patients

· Decreasing prescribing errors and medication errors.

Health information exchange help reduce health care costs

Health information exchange can help reduce costs. With efficient HIE, staff may spend less time on handling lab and radiology results, on clerical administration and filing as well as on administrative tasks that may translate into financial benefits. HIE can avoid duplication of tests that hence can reduce cost by avoiding redundant tests. It can also contribute in reducing un-reimbursed charges for per visits and hence reduced chronic care cost

Challenges/pitfalls of health information exchange

According to a recent survey conducted by the eHealth Initiative, the most significant challenges impacting health information exchange initiatives today are:

· Addressing privacy and confidentiality issues

· Defining the value that accrues to the users of the health information exchange

· Developing a sustainable business model

· Addressing technical aspects including architecture, applications and connectivity

· Addressing organization and governance issues

· Engaging health plans

Overcoming challenges

For financing and sustainability it is important to recognize that value of HIT accrues too many stakeholders, including clinicians, health plans, hospitals, purchasers, patients and public health. Incentive amounts offered should be meaningful as value to various stakeholders is critical. Their vision should be shared to reduce bias. Innovative programs should be designed to facilitate public and private sector seed funding of emerging health information exchange efforts. A consensus on the standards of HIE should be achieved and these standards should be promoted to address privacy and confidentiality issues.

Because the industry is technical and complex the technical standards, policies should be well defined and standardized that can ensure accurate patient identification based on uniform and standardized methodologies.

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