Update on Health Information Exchanges

One recent hot topic in the medical world is on how health information is exchanged between hospitals and different healthcare providers. The new concept has been labeled “Health Information Exchange”. Based on increasing productivity and lowering medical costs, the concept has been gaining momentum and has been implemented by several healthcare systems nationwide.  With looming widespread changes coming in the American healthcare system, providers are searching for ways to cut down costs and improve the quality of care.

Health Information Exchange is defined as the electronic exchange of health information among organizations. There are currently several organizations that are designed to enable hospitals to access patient information, all within a certain geographical area. Medical information is highly private and this has to be protected, regardless of the means of transmission of the information.

For decades, patient information has been difficult to pass between institutions. With the dawn of electronic medical records and higher volume of patients, providers are being tasked with increasing the efficiency at which they treat patients.  The ability to access patient records electronically and from a database, cuts down on operational costs that drive up the price of healthcare. Providers are able to speed up the time in which they treat patients and not plagued by the long wait times to receive patient information if they are usually treated at another facility.

Currently, there are several Health Information Exchanges in the country that have implemented the system within the region. The Chesapeake Regional Information System for Patients has allowed John Hopkins and University of Maryland hospitals the opportunity to exchange information all within the state. If a patient usually is treated at Johns Hopkins but presents to a University of Maryland hospital, physicians will be able to access her information from the database.

However, not everyone is comfortable with the notion of a health exchange. Some physicians have raised concern about whether the exchange works or not and about the program’s failure to reach meaningful use stage 1. Dr. William Yasnoff, president of the HealthCare Banking Alliance, stated recently that over 90% of hospitals in HIE’s have not exchanged a single patient record at this point. He also contends that the system is too costly and not secure and that a patient controlled database would be more efficient.

Though the system may be flawed, it is undeniable that if used correctly and often, providers would save money and improve care tremendously by cutting down on times to receive information.  As more hospitals become more comfortable with using the system, the process will only improve and help the ever growing price of healthcare.

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