Health Information Management

Topic: Understand the definition of and need for health information exchange

HIM-HIPAA Insider, August 21, 2007

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As in any emerging field, health information exchange (HIE) has different meanings to different groups. For some, HIE is a generic phrase that promotes the notion of seamless exchange of health information in support of improved patient care, wherever it may occur. For the most part, however, the concept of HIE is more formalized, in which specific agreements are made among connection points for private and secure exchange of health information among parties who conform to a model, agreement, or certification process.

Many factors have led to the rise of HIE. With today's fragmented healthcare system, continuity of care across multiple care settings is not easy. Even when patients remain in a specific community, they may experience unnecessary duplication of diagnostic studies as they bounce between multiple specialists and subspecialists. Without a complete medication history at any one stop in the care delivery system, providers may prescribe an overdose of a medication or a contraindicated medication. A specialist may not have access to a patient's primary care profile and be unaware of health maintenance that should be addressed. Likewise, a primary care provider may delay treatment because results of a specialist's evaluation are not readily available. In a mobile society, the effects of healthcare fragmentation and lack of HIE are exacerbated.

Editor's note: For more information on HIE and a nationwide health information network, purchase HCPro's book The No-Hassle Guide to EHR Implementation. Click here for more information.

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