Health care providers have relied on paper records since the birth of modern medicine. Each practice was an island unto itself, and the transfer of information was slow and cumbersome. Even when practices began moving to electronic records, there was no easy way to transmit patient data from one provider to the next. Now practices are banding together in Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) to share patient information in a secure and timely manner. Let’s examine some of the benefits small practices can expect when joining an HIE.
Lower documentation costs. The costs related to creating, storing, retrieving and transmitting paper documents is a significant amount for a small practice. In addition to the costs of materials and equipment, employees lose time searching, copying, faxing and mailing patient records. Even more time is lost when an employee calls to confirm the recipient received the documents. The Sushoo Health Information Exchange estimated a small practice with a single physician spends approximately $17,160 per year on costs related to paper documentation. HIEs allow small practices to cut their documentation costs by going “paperless” with patient records.
More accurate patient records. With paper records, information is exchanged from point-to-point. There is a very real possibility of information getting lost or garbled between health care providers. If an emergency came up after hours, physicians were faced with having to make important decisions without access to all of the information they needed. HIEs ensure physicians have access to all of the relevant information at any time, leading to improved patient care and the potential for reduced malpractice lawsuits.
Increased record security. While there is some security in paper records being offline and inaccessible to intrusion from hackers, they are available to anyone who has access to the records area. Once the information leaves the practice, anyone can read it simply by looking at the paper. Paper records are also vulnerable to disasters such as fires, floods, extreme weather and natural disasters. HIEs store patient records digitally in an encrypted format, so only the relevant people have access. The information is backed up in multiple locations, so the data is secure in case of unforeseen events.
Eliminate unnecessary or duplicate testing and immunizations. Incomplete patient records can lead to tests with no benefits to the patient. If a test record is not in the patient’s file, the physician may order a duplicate test. Unnecessary tests can come into play if a diagnosis has already been ruled out. While vaccines are a useful and lifesaving precaution, not all vaccines are right for every patient. Some patients can have allergic reactions to the ingredients in certain vaccine formulations, and very few patients enjoy being jabbed with a needle any more than necessary.
Improved patient satisfaction. HIEs help improve patient satisfaction in many ways. Patients appreciate improved appointment scheduling, reduced wait times in the office and when filling their prescriptions, and quick and easy access to their health care information.
Health Information Exchanges bring the benefits of the Information Age to both practices and patients with relevant and accurate patient records delivered in a timely manner.
Learn more out ZH OpenEMR’s capabilities to interface with HIE’s.