Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Has Health Information Exchange Improved Healthcare Reform?

By Vera Gruessner

In 2013, the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) released a roadmap for the development of effective health information exchange (HIE) that would lead to lower costs, improved delivery, and better patient outcomes.

This week the Louis W. Sullivan Institute for Healthcare Innovation released a report updating the industry on the results from the 2013 WEDI framework and offers guidance on potential improvements within HIE development and health IT adoption.

The 2013 report focused on four key areas of improvement. These include:

  1. Patient Engagement
  2. Payment Models
  3. Data Harmonization and Exchange
  4. Innovative Encounter Models

The Sullivan Institute report states that patient engagement strategies are on par with the recommendations offered by WEDI and are progressing efficiently. The progress around payment models is not as quick, as more questions and issues stem from the use of newer payment models. The report encourages the development of an “evaluation framework of core attributes and technological functionalities” meeting WEDI requirements.

Additionally, more innovation is needed to systemize and harmonize data. Greater efforts will need to be put forth into interoperability and information exchange. Efforts in innovative encounter models are on par with WEDI recommendations, the report finds. Strategies from the industry and federal pilot programs are all leading the way in incorporating innovative encounter models to provide patient-centric care.

The report provides certain recommendations for the healthcare sector such as incorporating patient identifiers to standardize patient identification across multiple health records distributed among various medical facilities. The issues surrounding redundant data due to improper identification has led to inaccuracies and errors within the healthcare system.

Poor quality of data is associated with worse patient outcomes, which is why implementing patient identifiers could vastly improve the quality of care among hospitals and physician practices. Better patient matching and identification could also strengthen privacy and security measures across the healthcare spectrum.

One effort from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) occurred in early 2014 when an issued report spoke on patient identification and matching, indicating key strategies to implement in order to accurately match patients to their records.

The Sullivan Institute report also encourages stakeholders to increase health IT education and literacy programs on a broader spectrum in order to improve patient engagement with patient portals, EHRs, and other health IT tools. Additionally, developers should continue to create systems for capturing patient information and leveraging mobile devices to improve health data access and exchange.

While there have been significant strides made toward the adoption of EHR technology and the movement toward lower cost and better quality of care, there is still plenty of work to be done in efforts to meet Stage 2 and Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements and increase HIE adoption.

Challenges surrounding patient identification, data harmonization, and the improvement of payment models will need to be addressed. Regulations and new technologies will be shaping the healthcare sector for years to come while patients will begin to take a greater role in their own healthcare management.

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