While no two HIEs are exactly alike, we have begun to identify some national trends that help us all gain a better understanding of the big HIE picture. For many HIEs, the first step seems to be connecting hospitals so that you can source their data where they need it to go. Once there is live data feeding into the HIE, the next step logically becomes sending that information to the physicians in their respective practices through a variety of delivery mechanisms ranging from interface integration directly into an EHR to secure clinical messaging tools that offer an electronic alternative for those who have not yet selected an EHR.
From there, the growing and exciting challenges become sourcing the data from all healthcare providers including independent physician practices (in the form of CCDs), public health departments, extended care facilities, and other laboratory and diagnostic facilities so that it can be appropriately and securely exchanged throughout a community, region, state, and eventually — with the help of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) — anywhere in the country. The quality improvements and cost savings that can be achieved through instant sharing of this information have been identified as significant for healthcare providers across the board.
We’re thrilled to see those outcomes every day and to be able serve our healthcare providers in this capacity. But now as we dive into the new year, there is a new wave of health information exchange on the horizon, and it’s all about the patients. We hear it all the time — our physicians are feeling the heat trying to juggle their time between adding new patients, implementing new technology (and using it effectively), and spending adequate time with each patient. According to some, time with each patient has been so dramatically reduced that it is physically impossible to get through the regular check-up and cover important preventative health topics all at once. The challenge becomes communicating most effectively with the patient in the allotted time.
But what if we all started to look at new technology as the solution for patient engagement rather than the barrier? What if we embraced this new wave of HIE activity and used it to bridge communication gaps with your patients? The possibilities are endless, so I won’t limit you by suggesting a few examples. I will, however, point out a few key considerations on the matter:
- Our nation is crying out for a new culture of health. Preventative health measures matter, but it is up to each individual person to carry those through. No matter how good of a physician you are, you can’t control what your patients eat for dinner and how many hours of TV they actually watch. They have to care as much as you do about health in order to change those behaviors.
- You, the physician, are the health expert. Hand off this knowledge to your patients. While you can’t control what your patients do when they are not in your office, you can inspire them to want to pay attention to their health. Arm them with the information they need to keep track of their own health measures.
- Technology is a communication medium that nearly every single person is using in some form or another. Your patients are not the exception to this. While they may not think they want to spend a lot of their free time investing in their health and how to monitor it, the right communication medium is great leverage to start the conversation. You may be surprised where it goes.
You see? There are countless ways to engage your patients in health information exchange, and these new waves of connectivity might just carry our society into a new outlook on health. If you are using an EHR today, think outside the box on the countless ways you could use it to share information with your patients to arm them with the knowledge they need to make good decisions. Sure, online bill pay and scheduling are nice amenities to offer your patients, too. But keeping in mind the essence of health information exchange, we really could be doing so much more to put patients in the middle of big picture of HIE activity.