Health Information Exchange (HIE) – Is it the right way?

Increasing dissemination and exchange of health information electronically between multiple care providing bodies has led to the emergence of Health Information Exchanges (HIE). General opinion has been that these HIEs will inevitably enhance the quality of care, but newer studies debate whether this is the right way to encourage information sharing across the healthcare community.

Recent research by experts in the industry questions the ability of Health Information Exchanges to operate fully in compliance with Meaningful Use as required by the HITECH Act. Instead, researchers suggest developing a cloud based Health Record Bank.

THE HRSA website defines a health record bank as an “electronic consumer-controlled warehouse that gathers, stores and disseminates patients’ health records. A patient can, for a fee, establish an account with a health record bank. When the patient has new medical information – such as information relating to an upcoming physician’s appointment – their provider can send it directly to the bank. The patient can also submit their own information as well as determine who can have access to review their personal medical records.”

One of the original researchers for this study shared his idea that since Electronic Health Records are usually banked in communities across the country, it would be prudent for patients to share their information on a single platform. Not only would this give them better accessibility, it would give the government a better chance to monitor and analyze the trend or pattern of population health.

Cloud-based banks would perform functions of data maintenance for patients’ electronic health records in different communities throughout the country with a local or regional provider having a separate copy of the records which the patient will be able to transfer to any other provider, if he or she chooses to.

Researchers believe that current health information systems are faulty and unstructured. The crisis in healthcare and the need for urgency in reforms lead the research team to think about better ways to share large amounts of medical information across the community, connecting all stakeholders related to the industry.

One of the main issues with current health information exchanges is that it Is largely based on an assumption that one can get information about any patient from any provider. This is ineffective because if you go to a doctor for information about a patient, the doctor will have to contact some other doctor and ask for that specific information which the other doctor will have to search for first, and then relay the information back to the doctor you are sitting with.

If all the information related to every patient across the country was kept on a single database, without the need to check with other parties, information sharing would become easier, quick and efficient. The dilemma now is that, considerable amount of money has already been spent on health information exchanges across the country. This leaves little desire to look for alternative ways of information sharing and a lack of capital for more research into health record banks.