Electronic health information exchange (HIE) can allow doctors, clinical staff, other healthcare providers and their patients access to a patient’s vital medical information in a secure electronic location. In doing so, electronic exchange can improve the overall quality and speed of patient care while decreasing costs for all parties.

Despite the fact that the technology is widespread and readily available, most medical information is still stored on paper. When medical information needs to be shared among providers, the paperwork must be mailed or faxed between offices or practices. Often, patients are stuck carrying their paperwork with them to every appointment. While electronic exchange will never replace real patient-provider interaction, it can greatly improve the accuracy of patient records and the quality of care that the patient is receiving. Readmissions, medical errors, and repeated testing can all be avoided through the timely sharing of patient information.

Many practices have systems that they believe work well for them, without HIE. However, by standardizing data through electronic exchange, the data can be easily integrated into a practice’s EHR.

There are currently three main forms of HIE. Directed exchange is characterized by the ability to send and receive secure electronic information between healthcare providers, thereby encouraging coordinated care. A provider can share lab results, medications, and concerns with a specialist, decreasing redundancy and medical errors. Directed exchange is also used for reporting quality measures to the CMS.

Query-based exchange allows for providers to find and request patient data from other providers. This exchange is often used when a provider has to deliver unplanned care during an emergency.

The ability for patients to control how providers use and access their information is known as consumer-mediated exchange. Patients can actively participate in their own healthcare by identifying and correcting any missing and/or incorrect health and billing information. They can provide access to their information and monitor their own health.

By adopting electronic exchange, physicians and other healthcare providers can greatly improve the quality of their patient care while increasing efficiency and encouraging the standardization of health information.

Author: Lauren Daniels

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