For decades, technology has significantly affected how the health care industry operates, from the way patients are admitted to the hospital to determining discharge dates, and every step in between. A desire for more efficiency, quality and safety in patient care steered the federal government toward mandating a transition to electronic health records (EHRs). The way the information is transferred among various health care providers is referred to as health information exchange.
Health information exchange (HIE) allows patients and health care providers to electronically access vital medical information. This is a significant shift away from the traditional means of recording patient information on paper, to be filed away in various providers’ offices and patient homes. HIE offers more complete records, plus instant access to medical history, current and past medications, and other vital information.
More health care providers are participating in HIE, because it facilitates coordinated patient care. Coordinated care can reduce redundant treatments, decrease errors, lower costs and improve patient health. The benefits of health information exchange include:
Access to the same information by everyone involved in a patient’s care, from the primary care doctor to the emergency room technician, can help save time and improve outcomes.
While more hospitals and health care providers are connecting with their state’s HIE, a shortage of qualified HIE technicians could be preventing others from following suit. This health care information technology (IT) talent void is slowing many providers’ efforts to implement electronic health records requirements.
In fact, the latest survey by the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME) revealed that 67% of health care executives were experiencing shortages in their IT staff levels, which is up from 59% in 2010.
Because the government’s mandate is driven by both deadlines and financial penalties, failing to implement the switch to EHRs on time could affect an organization’s chances of qualifying for funding.
Health information exchange is seen as the critical connection point between health care providers, and one of the best ways to improve patient care while reducing expenses. Because information technology is at the heart of HIE, health care providers will depend on more talented and trained health IT professionals to complete their connection and implement this cost- and potentially life-saving technology.