Do Health Information Exchanges Actually Help?

The short answer is yes! Here are a few reasons why…

Health Information Exchange (HIE) was developed with leading Health Information Technologies (HIT) to serve many functions, but to accomplish one master goal: improved patient health. How does it accomplish this? Well, it’s no secret that providers are utilizing secure, electronic medical records (EMR) or electronic health records (EHR) to document patient visits, effectively cutting down on stacks of paper charts ensuring that information isn’t lost, and improving the efficiency of healthcare staff. HIE takes this a step further.

HIE’s connect the many EMR/EHR’s present in the area to one spot- so if a patient is referred to a specialty clinic, or has a major accident and ends up in the Emergency Department rather than the Primary Care Physician’s (PCP) office, the PCP is made aware and can better treat the patient in future. This eliminates faxing and snail-mail by providing a secure data-base for a complete view of patient history, creating automated notifications to the PCP when a visit or result has occurred elsewhere, and can only be accessed by a treating provider, ensuring patient health is kept private.

In a 2010, shortly after IHDE was created, a study was conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office wherein it was reported by both exchanges and providers that HIEs had a positive effect on the quality of care that providers deliver to patients, with the following real-life examples of how:

Officials from two exchanges stated that they provide a direct connection from participating hospitals to their state’s Department of Public Health for real-time reporting of conditions and for supporting the early detection of disease outbreaks. According to one of these officials, this service facilitated the state’s ability to obtain information about cases of H1N1 more quickly than other states. A large hospital that participated in one of the exchanges reported that a cardiologist was able to obtain an abnormal laboratory result electronically from the exchange one day earlier than they would have otherwise. This timely access to the patients’ electronic health information allowed the provider to perform earlier intervention for a potentially life-threatening condition. Another hospital reported that information obtained through its health information exchange helped its emergency department physician ascertain that a patient who was requesting medication for pain had been in five area hospitals in seven nights seeking pain medication. As a result, the physician did not prescribe any additional pain medication" (United States, 2010).

In a later 2017 study conducted examining data from 2009 to 2012 by Daniel M Walker of the Ohio State University, College of Medicine in Columbus, a two-stage analytic design was utilized to determine the efficiency of HIEs which suggested that “any participation in HIE can improve both technical efficiency change and total factor productivity” and “shows a benefit of one and three years of participation on total factor productivity.” The results of this study showed that “51.2% [of the hospitals that participated] increased their technical efficiency, 58.1% increased their technological efficiency; and 62.2% increased their total factor productivity,” (Walker, 2017).  In other words, a hospital that utilizes HIE improves overall operational performance.

The future of HIE is bright, with such a strong start. As more and more EMR/EHRs are connected to an HIE, there is more opportunity to analyze health trends, and stop outbreaks before they begin, making for healthier communities. Patients can feel safe knowing that their information is secure and protected, and that they can get the life-saving treatment they need in any situation, provided they receive care from a facility that is connected to an HIE.

IHDE itself is an HIE that has helped to considerably improve the workflow and patient care of hospitals, clinics, home health care and hospices, specialty clinics, and more, reducing deduplication of tests and healthcare costs and improving the care coordination of our patients. “If you’re in HealthCare in Idaho, you use IHDE!” -Steve Judy, Primary Health Medical Group.

United States. (2010). Electronic personal health information exchange: Health care entities' reported disclosure practices and effects on quality of care : report to congressional committees. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Accountability Office.