When a new patient comes into a physician’s office, wouldn’t it be nice to obtain her health records by simply clicking around an EHR for a few seconds?
Unfortunately, that kind of easy access to patient data — sans fax machines, back-and-forth e-mails, and taking lengthy medical histories of patients — isn’t the reality at most practices today. Yet it is the goal that is fueling the construction of a health information exchange (HIE) in the state of Connecticut, David Gilbertson, CEO of Health Information Technology Exchange of Connecticut (HITE-CT), told Physicians Practice.
“The main issue with interoperability with practices is really the ability to move information into the physician’s work flow,” said Gilbertson. “It’s one thing to make information available and to have a place where providers can go get it if they want it. But that’s not ideal. What providers want is information available where they look for information. I don’t think providers are excited about going into multiple portals for information.”
Ruby Raley, director, healthcare solutions at Axway, the vendor whose technology is fueling HITE-CT’s network, told Physicians Practice that many providers use a separate system to access healthcare records, disrupting their work flow by having to log on to a different system.
“One of the problems we have with health technology and meaningful use is no one has focused on how to get the information they need when they need it, without having to go outside of their system,” she said.
However, creating a health information exchange is fraught with multiple challenges.
“They’re very hard to do,” said Gilbertson. “The healthcare system itself is not standardized. There’s competing priorities, there’s lack of understanding of what it is, and we’re so used to practicing medicine without information. Understanding how to now practice medicine differently is more about changing practices than changing technologies.”
During the HIMSS12 Conference in Las Vegas, EHR Association vice chairman Charles Jarvis, who is also the vice president of NextGen Healthcare, noted that the current proposal for Stage 2 of CMS’ meaningful use EHR incentive program includes a rule that providers will have to participate in an HIE and actually exchange data.
In an ideal world, the HIE will allow physicians to share patient information more easily.
“Care rendered by one doctor can be integrated by care rendered by multiple providers,” Jarvis told Physicians Practice. “It isn’t uncommon to be seen by multiple doctors. Each of those doctors is giving patients a different level of care at different times. What HIE lets people do is share [current] information at different times.”
What this means is if “Mrs. Smith sees a primary care doctor on Monday and cardiologist on Thursday, the information is delivered via [the HIE] by Thursday.”
However, the extent to which providers can share data might be limited by whether or not the healthcare industry (including EHR vendors) and state governmental organizations can agree on a technology specification.
“Making a protocol is a lengthy process,” says Jarvis. “Everybody has to be able to compromise a little bit.”