HIE Best Practices: Preparing for Health Information Exchange

Storing Data within Health IT Systems

Kyle S. Murphy, Senior Editor EHRintelligence.com
Health information exchange is both a network enabling the exchange of health information and the act of exchanging patient data. Much of the this focus to date has centered on the various HIEs springing up across the country — indeed Massachusetts is set to run its first tests for its exchange today — as well as the development of the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN or NwHIN). Despite their importance to enabling exchange, these networks are secondary to work of healthcare providers and organizations to ensure that their own systems are capable of sharing protected health information (PHI) in the first place.
For the past four decades, the Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI), a nonprofit organization, has helped improve healthcare through applied research of medical procedures, processes, and devices to identify best practices. In this installment of HIE Best Practices, Vice President of Applied Solutions Tom Skorup, MBA, and Senior Project Engineer Erin Sparnon offer insight based on their experiences working with healthcare systems to improve the exchange of health information, which begins with preparation within an organization’s own walls before extending to external systems and health information networks.
Recognize the problem of exchange locally
For large health systems using a variety of health information technology, HIE is first and foremost about connecting providers within its own walls. That itself proves challenging. “Over time hospitals are moving more towards trying to find the one vendor who can supply all needs. That process is slow and painful,” explains Sparnon, “Until hospitals are able to make information available within their own walls, it may not be their first priority to be able to transmit or receive information from outside the building.”
Get your priorities in order
Providers already have a lot of their plates. And in the coming years, they have to contend with federal mandates and initiatives regarding their use of electronic health records (EHRs) and code sets from the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10). HIE represents yet another priority, which as Sparnon observes comprises its own share of priorities:

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