- Providers have been exchanging patient healthcare data in this country for more than 15 years.
- We still struggle to access patient data at the point of care.
While few patients know much about health IT history, most are aware that hospitals, doctors, labs, and other providers are able to share health data. And they’ve come to expect that their own data will be available to every provider they encounter on their patient journey.
For those who work in the healthcare space, the realities of the second statement loom large. The data is available, but we can’t always get records when we need them.
It’s time to close the gaps.
Healthcare is more than hospitals
When talk turns to healthcare data, hospitals and health systems draw a lot of attention. The good news is that most have achieved high levels of data sharing.
Roughly 75 percent of hospitals in the US participate in some form of health information exchange (HIE), with 35% of those participating in both regional and national exchange networks.
But most patients aren’t treated in a hospital. The CDC reports that only 7.9% of the US population was admitted to a hospital in 2018.
Rather, patients obtain most of their care from primary or specialty physicians. In fact, 89 percent of care is administered in outpatient settings.
For many of these patients, the advantages of healthcare data exchange remain elusive because their providers cannot exchange data with one another. Unfortunately, fewer than four in 10 (39 percent) provider-based practices participate in an HIE.
Without healthcare data, a new provider must rely solely on patients to report on the care they have received or are receiving from other clinicians. Even under the best of circumstances, patients often fail to provide a complete medical history.
How many of us have heard something like this: “I take a tiny round pink pill at night. Well, sometimes in the morning if I forget….”
It’s time ALL providers shared data
Sharing data is the key to realizing the vision of national interoperability, and it’s time ALL providers shared data.
Centralis Health actively encourages provider-based practices and small hospital systems to share data via our regional and community exchange. In fact, I’d guess that 95 percent of our data comes from physician practices.
We feel this alone makes the healthcare communities we support more efficient than many in the country.
Now that new federal standards for interoperability being rolled out — and federally recognized qualified health information networks are being named — healthcare providers of all sizes need to take steps to begin sharing patient data.
We would not be surprised if in the near future, HIE’s to require participants to share their data to be able to access data.
Overcoming provider concerns around data exchange
When people ask me why more provider-based practices aren’t sharing data, I always say that it boils down to fear, availability, cost, and trust.
“We don’t trust the technology yet. When it’s REALLY been tested, we’ll do it.”
Quick recap: We’ve been exchanging patient healthcare data in this country for more than 15 years.
In the context of technology, that’s a lifetime – long enough to see the advent and widespread adoption of the iPhone, Instagram, and electric cars.
Health IT is a mature tech sector, and it’s getting stronger and more secure every year.
“We will wait until more data is available and people are actually using it for patient care.”
First, every practice is already sharing patient data. They’re just using inefficient mechanisms like paper faxes.
Second, this objection is the very reason that data gaps still exist. More interoperable data will simply not be available until more physician practices connect to an HIE and begin sharing.
By integrating with an HIE, physician practices can both streamline their own processes and become part of the solution to concerns about data availability.
“Even if we want to share data, we can’t afford the cost to connect.”
Granted, connectivity can be a budget burden on smaller provider practices and hospitals. However, in recent years costs have come down and EMR vendors often include an HIE connection at no additional fee.
More importantly, providers must consider the unseen cost of NOT connecting – specifically, how can you provide quality care if you don’t have access to patient records when you need them?
“I don’t want my records out there for anyone to see. How do we know our patients’ data won’t be abused?”
Data privacy is a valid concern and regional HIEs may vary in their approach to security.
Here are three questions to help find an HIE vendors you can trust:
- Who has access to my data?
- In what manner can my data be queried – for example, Name and DOB, DX Code, Address?
- Do you sell patient data for profit?
Choosing an HIE vendor requires due diligence. With a little research, your practice can find one that aligns with your mission, vision, and values.
Make the move toward healthcare interoperability
For provider-based practices and small hospitals, now is the time to start leveraging data for patient care in real time.
Health information exchange has evolved considerably, and any objections that have kept you from participating are over-matched by the benefits – for your care team, your practice, and your patients.
Don’t spend another minute waiting on faxes. Find out if Centralis Health is the right HIE for you.