What do HIEs DO for patients?
December 10, 2018
What is a Health Information Exchange (HIE), where are they getting my information and why are they exchanging it? These are the most common questions received by HIEs from patients in their regions. Working with Protected Health Information (PHI) is a high-stakes job, so there is plenty to be concerned about as far as HIPAA compliance and security of the exchange. Let’s go through these questions one by one:
What is an HIE? An HIE is a secure, limited sharing of electronic health information among medical providers to improve patient care. The key words are, IMPROVE PATIENT CARE, which answers the question, Why are they exchanging my information? In the field of Public Health, specialists work to promote healthy lifestyles and health education in order to serve one goal: to improve public health. In a 2018 study of the impact of HIEs, it was discovered that the benefits of HIEs for patients include “fewer duplicated procedures, reduced imaging, lower costs, and improved patient safety,” (Menachemi, Rahukar, Harle & Vest). That is why HIEs exist.
Where are they (HIEs) getting my information? Your medical records are made by your doctors, nurses, and lab results. Hospitals and clinics these days have moved from the unreliability of paper charts and turned to the security of Electronic Medical Records (EMR). Each Hospital and Clinic may have their own EMR, and that helps them in the continued treatment of their own patients, but what if a patient moves? What if you arrive at an Emergency Department, unable to speak for yourself, and in urgent need of quick treatment? How does your doctor know that treating you with this medicine rather than that medicine won’t cause a fatal reaction?
HIEs make connections with the EMRs of Hospitals and Clinics all over the region. This means that an HIE can create one patient chart for you, combining information collected from all of the hospitals and clinics you have visited, for the most complete view of your medical history. Who has access to my information? Only the people directly involved in your treatment and care can access it. Those people are trained medical professionals who must go through rigorous approval processes to ensure they understand the privacy and security required for the information they are accessing, and exchanges are regularly audited and assessed for improper access. Your information cannot be accessed out of curiosity, your employer cannot access your records.
HIEs were made in collaboration with public health agencies, keeping your health in mind. Patient health is the very reason why HIEs exist. Idaho Health Data Exchange (the HIE for Idaho, also known as IHDE) has heard many stories first-hand about how the exchange has been helpful to patients. In one such instance, a gentleman went to a health clinic that participates with IHDE on a Friday morning. His primary care physician (PCP) determined that he needed a lab result from a specialty clinic before treatment could move forward. The PCP needed it immediately before his condition worsened. With the weekend close upon them, however, it looked probable that the gentleman may have to wait too long for the results using normal channels. He may end up in the emergency department before a treatment plan could be drawn up. Luckily, the specialty clinic was also a member of IHDE and the patient was able to be seen that day, and his test results were immediately sent securely and electronically back to his PCP the that same afternoon via IHDE. He was able to return to his PCP and receive his treatment plan before the weekend, thus reducing the risk to his health and preventing the cost of a visit to the emergency department.
This is just one important success story showing how an HIE is meant to protect you. For more information regarding the HIE for the state of Idaho, please visit our website at: https://www.idahohde.org/about-us/ or to hear more about HIEs, please view the video available here: https://www.idahohde.org/what-is-health-information-exchange/ or visit this website: https://www.healthit.gov/topic/health-it-basics/health-information-exchange.
To read more about the Idaho Health Data Exchange’s Privacy and Security policies, please visit our website at: https://www.idahohde.org/about-us/privacy-and-security/.
With the understanding that HIEs are made for patient health – your health – if you are a resident of Idaho and decide you do not want to take part in the Idaho Health Data Exchange, please view the steps to Opt-Out here: https://www.idahohde.org/opt-out-or-opt-back-in/.