Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Will Patient Health Outcomes Improve With Interoperability?

By Vera Gruessner

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on May 5 that about $101 million will be delivered to 164 new community health centers across the country in efforts to boost patient health outcomes. In a press release, HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell explained that the Affordable Care Act funding will benefit clinics in 33 states and two US territories.

“The Affordable Care Act has led to unprecedented increases in access to health insurance.  Part of building on that progress is connecting people to the care they need,” Secretary Burwell stated. “Health centers are keystones of the communities they serve. Today’s awards will enable more individuals and families to have access to the affordable, quality health care that health centers provide. That includes the preventive and primary care services that will keep them healthy.”

Clearly, the government agency is determined to improve patient care throughout the country and reform the current healthcare system. HHS pushed forward reforms through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) in order to reduce medical errors and improve patient health outcomes.

Through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, providers are expected to implement EHRs and health IT systems, attest to meaningful use requirements, and thereby lead to better patient care. However, EHR interoperability and the effective exchange of health information among medical entities has proven to be the key ingredient necessary to truly boost patient health outcomes, according to ONC and countless healthcare providers.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the New Mexico Health Information Collaborative launched a statewide health information exchange (HIE) network meant to keep better track of healthcare delivery, quality, and patient safety throughout the healthcare continuum.

With patients seeing an average of 18 doctors throughout their lifetime, the Journal stressed the importance of ensuring every physician had access to patients’ health information that included every encounter with a clinician. This would reduce adverse events such as administering a medication a patient is allergic to, as physicians would have allergy-related data available to them before assigning a treatment or procedure.

Patient privacy and security of health information remains a top concern among healthcare providers and IT professionals. As such, the New Mexico HIE network leaves the power to the patients as to who has the right to access their medical records.

At this point in time, the collaborative has collected medical data from 1.2 million patients and 52 percent of hospital stays throughout New Mexico. With such a wealth of data, physicians will be able to access records to better diagnose patients and choose the most effective treatments, the Journal reports.

Additionally, healthcare costs should be reduced with the implementation of health information exchanges and improved interoperability, as more data access should decrease the amount of duplicative tests and/or treatments. HHS as well as ONC and CMS are continuing their efforts toward improving the quality of healthcare, patient health outcomes, and reduced spending by stressing interoperability and speedy health information exchange.

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