Office-based physician adoption has more than doubled since 2008. EHR/EMR adoption rates were around 89% in 2020, according to SelectHub. EHRs offer many benefits over paper records, especially improved efficiency and speed, and the opportunity to provide quality patient care. Medical transcription service providers help physicians better manage electronic patient records. However, reports say that despite the prevalence of secure electronic data transfer, paper records are still widely used and shared, which affects care and also lead to reimbursement issues.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) notes that a lot of medical information is stored on paper and shared between providers by mail or fax or carried to appointments by patients themselves. Paper-based data exchange on the payer side impacts care transition efficacy, delays treatment, and causes denials or payment reduction, ultimately affecting patient outcomes. Providers and payers need to move to electronic exchange of patient data to overcome healthcare data related challenges and delays in care.
What is Electronic Health Information Exchange (HIE)?
Patients often see multiple providers in different facilities using different EHR systems. To provide appropriate care, every physician treating the patient needs to have access to all of the patient’s medical history, and be able to view the patient’s electronic record with recent lab tests, diagnoses, allergies and prescriptions. HIE allows for this.
HIE is the secure and seamless electronic transmission of patient data among authorized healthcare providers and organizations. Electronic exchange of clinical information allows physicians, nurses, pharmacists, other health care providers, and patients to access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically, which improves the speed, quality, safety, coordination, and cost of patient care (ONC).The COVID-19 pandemic increased the use of telemedicine visits, further highlighting the importance of electronic exchange of patient data among providers and payers.
Benefits of HIE
The three main types of health information exchange currently in use are:
- Directed Exchange – ability to send and receive secure information such as laboratory orders and results, patient referrals, or discharge summaries electronically between care providers to support coordinated care
- Query-based Exchange – ability for providers to find and/or request information on a patient from other providers, often used for emergency/unplanned care
- Consumer Mediated Exchange – ability for patients to aggregate and control the use of their health information among providers, allowing them to correct inaccurate demographic, medical, or billing information, and track and monitor their own health.
HIE offers many benefits:
- Reduces risk of medical errors and improves patient safety: If communication and information does not flow freely among healthcare providers, it can lead to medical errors. The EHR can have incorrect information if it is not updated immediately when new information, such as test results come in. This can lead providers to revert to paper paper-based document formats like fax for records exchange, leading to failures and delays (www.fortherecord.com). Electronic health information exchange improves patient safety by making the right information about the right patient available at the right time. HIE improves medication information processing, lab information processing, improved and radiology information processing It improves communication among providers, between patients and providers, and also allows for better public health information processing.
- Increases provider efficiency by eliminating unnecessary paperwork and handling: HIE reduces costs and promotes better use of time for healthcare organizations and patients by doing away with paperwork. Clinicians can access health information needed for prescribing decisions, timely and reliable delivery of test results, and coordination of medical orders more easily, which in turn, improves focus on the patient.
- Improves the quality of healthcare: By making critical patient information available at the point of care, HIE improves the quality of care. Relias Media references a new study which suggested that since a single EHR may not be a complete source of relevant clinical information, including standards-based data from a health information exchange can improve quality of care. When the physician sends a query to HIE, the data from the HIE comes directly into the patient chart, providing a clear picture of all the diagnoses of the patient, all the procedures the patient had, and all the lab results and allergies. Appropriate, timely sharing of vital patient information promotes better patient care, avoids readmissions, prevents medication errors, improves diagnosis and decreases duplicate testing.
- Enables better patient engagement: Consumers are better informed about their own personal health information, which enables electronic patient engagement. HIE provides patients with an electronic copy of their all their medical information which they can share with multiple healthcare providers. HIEs are designed to combine and distribute health data from multiple sources directly to patients in a standardized format. This improves patient-provider communication and patient satisfaction.
- Improves research: By providing data aggregation across multiple medical organizations, HIEs also support research to improve health care. While EHR data is also used for research, multiple systems need to be accessed to capture all relevant clinical data accurately. As they connect different EHRs in a community, HIEs provide comprehensive information and foster research.
- Improves public health reporting and tracking: Effective community-based interventions need reliable data that can be shared with many organizations. EHR data compiled in HIEs can be used for disease surveillance, providing communitywide alerts, and to obtain demographic information for analysis.
Digitizing patient information and sharing it through HIEs is essential for patient safety and provider efficiency. Cloud computing and block chain are specifically designed to support sharing information, though organizations need to factor in security and compliance with regulations like HIPAA when using these technologies.
Information sharing in the health domain is a complex and challenging process. Incomplete or inaccurate in EHRs can disrupt the benefits of HIEs. Outsourcing medical transcription can ensure accurate, up-to-date and complete data in EHRs and support the goals of electronic health information exchange. From emergency room transcription to transcription for specialties like cardiology, pain management and behavioural medicine, an experienced medical transcription company can provide accurate and timely EHR documentation to support health information exchanges.