Electronic Health Records

Integration & Interoperability News

Health Information Exchange Vital in Cutting Healthcare Costs

By Sara Heath

EHR adoption and interoperability are showing major benefits, not only financially but with patient safety as well, according to the Executive Director of HEALTHeLINK.

In an editorial for The Buffalo News, the head of the health information exchange (HIE) in western New York goes over a recent study of the HEALTHeLINK that showed enabling physicians to keep track of the procedures patients have undergone via HIE use eliminates wasted time and many unnecessary treatments.

HIE use not only has financial benefits but also benefits regarding efficiency and patient safety.

“Unnecessary duplication of tests and exams is a significant financial burden on our healthcare system,” Porreca writes. “That cost, combined with the adverse impact on patients who may be unnecessarily exposed to radiation, and experience the hassle of waiting in the emergency room, makes quite clear the value of this technology.”

Although this study shows the roles health IT and HIE use play in reducing healthcare spending and increasing efficiency, Porreca reminds us that there are potentially many other ways in which health IT and information exchange are valuable to the healthcare system.

He continues by pointing out that it is not enough that patient data can successfully be stored electronically. The study also confirms the value of interoperability, showing that efficiency is increased when a patient’s data from a visit to one hospital can instantly be accessed during his or her visit at another hospital.

“Exchanging information includes knowing both when a test or exam was administered and, more importantly, the most current results,” Porreca says. “Office staff are not calling and waiting on hold or waiting by the fax machine for the information. The results are immediately available for patients who have consented.”

Porreca acknowledges that there are still many challenges in completely transitioning to electronic records, such as the question of patient security. However, this is something HEALTHeLINK has approached as a member of the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY). SHIN-NY, a self-proclaimed “network of networks” connects various healthcare facilities throughout New York via EHRs. Directed by the New York eHealth Collaborative, it seeks to modernize the state’s healthcare system by eradicating outdated health record practices.

“The SHIN-NY’s security requirements are strict, meaning that a patient’s health records will NOTE be publically accessible,” the website for SHIN-NY states. “Security measures include encryption and identity proofing, password protection, intrusion detection, and multiple firewalls.”

SHIN-NY is also HIPAA compliant and follows other federal and state Laws.

Despite challenges such as ease of use and integration into physician workflow, Porreca is confident that HEALTHeLINK is working well and constantly improving.

“Progress is continually being made as existing technology matures and new technologies are developed,” he says. “There is still work to do to ensure even broader adoption of what the region’s clinical information exchange has to offer now and the promise of what the exchange has to offer in the future.”

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