By now you might have heard something toted in the news about an Affordable Care Act. Or maybe you have heard about the Health Information Technology and Economic Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. You may have even been asked to sign an agreement to have your electronic health care records exchanged with another facility. Do you really know what it all means?
Jon was on the ski vacation of a life time. He and his wife had always dreamed about going to Park City, Utah for a ski vacation. Of course they were planning on having a wonderful time, staying 7 days and not visiting a hospital. However, at the bottom of a run, Jon happened to fall and hit his head on the ground. The mountain patrol reached him as fast as they could and Jon was airlifted to the hospital where I was working, a hospital where no one knew him or anything about him.
Meredith stepped out of the office from a visit with her family doctor. Her doctor had ran some tests and was sending her to see a neurologist at a different facility for specialized care. When Meredith arrived at the neurologist’s office for her appointment they did not have any of her records. They decided to repeat all of the tests she had done at the previous doctors office because it would be faster than obtaining the information from her family doctor.
Hopefully you have not had problems dealing with healthcare but if you have, one of the above stories probably sounds familiar.
Enter Health Information Exchange
Facilities do currently exchange your health information. However, for the most part the process is not electronic and is very slow. The process usually involves an authorization form for information release and several communications between the two facilities involved in the exchange. Personally I have had to facilitate this process before and depending on the patient and situation it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Especially in emergency healthcare, time is not something that you have to spare.
There are a few basic reasons that electronic health information exchange is better than the traditional ‘slow’ method.
- Speed of exchange. This should be instantaneous. It should save the patient treatment time as the provider is not waiting for information to properly treat.
- Effective treatment. Knowledge is power. Your healthcare provider can make better decisions knowing more information about you. Sometimes without this information, treatment is an educated guess which may not be as effective.
- Healthcare is cheaper. That is right, I said cheaper and that is a key reason why the government is interested. Anyway, as in Story Two, Meredith would not have had to pay for a second set of tests if the health information was able to be exchanged instantaneously.
What about Identity Theft?
There is already a lot of information out there about you on the Internet. If someone wanted to find out something about you, they probably could.
I asked a representative working with our local health information exchange what he thought about identity theft. He said that problems arise when protocols and procedures are not followed. This happened to be the case with a local breach that happened this year.
Some individuals may have specific information that they do not want shared, such as a mental health diagnosis or a sensitive diagnosis like cancer. it may vary depending on your local health information exchange, but make sure that you ask about limiting the exchange of that information if that is what you desire.
Basically health information exchange is there to help you. It is there to help you get efficient health care treatment faster and cheaper. It does come with risks which each organization and individual must weigh before participating.
With today’s healthcare reforms and experiences like these mentioned, I wanted blog about Electronic Health Information Exchange as as it has the potential help the current medical system. Having studied this field extensively, I am happy to answer any questions you may have. However, as in my disclaimer below please take this only as general information and not official guidelines.
About me: My graduate work was completed in the field of Nursing Informatics. My emphasis of study was on Electronic Health Information Exchange.
Disclaimer: This information is intended as general information only. This is not intended to replace advice from your provider or make a decision for you. Please contact your local health care facility of government agency for more information.