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Health Information Exchange Promises Optimal Patient Care and Outcomes

By Anil Patil

Health care professionals have experienced a myriad of challenges as a result of the unavailability of sufficient patient health information. It has made it difficult to draw a complete and accurate picture of a patient’s health status and hence negatively impacts the quality of care. Furthermore, it has led to a lack of coordination and continuity and transition of care and makes medication reconciliations and management difficult.

Health care professionals underutilize the EHR and health analytics tools due to the lack of comprehensive and quality health data. Due to these challenges, there is a need to digitize and exchange patient health information to facilitate care coordination and patient management at any point of care.

Health information exchange (HIE) is a new paradigm shift in health care that is being embraced by patients, providers, and health care organizations with a great deal of positivity about its advantages going forward.

HIE is not a new development in the medical field; however, there are numerous trends that health care entities should take note of. To begin with, there is a need to develop policies and procedures that facilitate requesting, storing, and sharing of information with other health care entities within the boundaries of HIPAA regulations.

Organizations should establish and maintain the enterprise data repositories that are hosted on in-house servers, in data centers, or on commercial cloud solutions. Moreover, the use of artificial intelligence and advanced analytics, including clinical support tools, will boost the benefits of HIE.

Data analysts should be trained to handle and feed the stored data into business intelligence tools and EHR systems. Patients should be encouraged to use smart devices and patient portals to access and record health data into the systems. Furthermore, it is important that IT infrastructure is developed to synchronize data from patient portals and smart devices and feed them into repositories and EHR systems. Real-time EHR integrations with laboratories and diagnostic centers enable faster access to test results.

Secure messaging and exchanging Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture files are other ways to share health information faster.

HIE comes with numerous benefits to both health care entities and patients. It makes care providers move toward the goal of value-based care. There is better reconciliation and fewer prescribing errors since the physician has access to a list of patients’ ongoing medications and medication allergies.

Predictive analytics and business intelligence tools can be better utilized if backed by data collected from the entities involved in a patient’s care. HIE facilitates modeling of a customized care plan for critically ill patients and those battling chronic illnesses. It also aids in eliminating duplicate laboratory and imaging procedures and specialty visits, which in turn saves dollars and time and helps providers make decisions faster.

As patients seek medical care from different payers and providers, health information from involved entities needs to be consolidated. HIE enables the collection and consolidation of current and past medical history, allergies, and laboratory and imaging results at any point of care.

HIE also enables physicians to evaluate trends in a patient’s health parameters and medication response, and helps make informed observations about a patient’s health. As patients visit specialized medical professionals when faced with certain conditions, with HIE, a physician can access information about visits and the specialist’s contact details in case of a need to seek any clarity. Managed care organizations can use historic claims, encounters, diagnostic test results, hospital admission, and primary care provider (PCP) information to perform better utilization management, care management, and risk stratification. Access to the family health history provides insights into hereditary diseases and the chances of developing cancers.

Portals enable patients to actively engage in their care by accessing educational health resources and communicating with physicians from their chosen devices. They can also become proactive in lifestyle changes by evaluating health trends and can contact physicians for advice before a medical condition escalates and becomes worse. In addition, portals can be used to set alerts and reminders for upcoming PCP visits and diagnostic tests.

Patients can also fill out health and behavioral risk assessments and questionnaires using the portal, the results of which can be captured and used in analytics. The portal can also be synched with wearable devices such as smart watches that record vitals such as blood pressure, pulse rate, and temperature. This will ensure up-to-date health information in the PCP’s EHR.

Anil Patil, MD, is a physician and HIT professional experienced in developing clinical IT tools for the health care industries in the United States, Canada, and India. Patil has been involved in bridging the gap between diverse health care professionals and development and design teams to define, build, and maintain intuitive clinical IT solutions that are critical to patient care, growth, engagement, and customer retention. For more information, please contact Patil at patilanild@gmail.com.