How HIEs Deliver Value in Healthcare

New Report Confirms the Value of Data Sharing in Health Care Industry

ESO Staff

It often takes an entire team of health care professionals to reach a positive outcome for a patient, and a recent push for better information-sharing between all professionals along the spectrum of care has been gaining momentum. Tools offering effective health information exchange (HIE) are becoming more popular within hospitals and EMS agencies, with the hope that the ability to easily share information such as electronic patient care records (ePCRs), stats of outcomes, and procedural reviews will improve patient care, help reduce costs, and increase efficiencies. 

Until recently, however, the belief that HIEs were indeed beneficial actually lacked empirical evidence, with the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association (JAMA) noting that previous reviews have found little rigorous evidence that HIE positively affects these anticipated benefits. However, a new report published in JAMA is changing that perception, thanks to a more in-depth and rigorous look at recent literature on the impact of HIE. 

Researchers, using an updated systematic review, found evidence that HIE does in fact deliver a wide range of benefits improving patient care and system efficiencies. In the published abstract on the new report, the team explains that most of the existing evidence on the effectiveness of HIE were “methodologically limited.” By collecting and thoroughly reviewing empirical articles that evaluated HIE in the context of a health care outcome, the team found that HIE tools – especially those used within communities – provided benefits such as fewer duplicated procedures, reduced imaging, lower costs, and improved patient safety. 

Numrous information-sharing tools are available today for health care providers, including digital records that allow patient information to be seamlessly handed off from EMS agency to emergency department, as well as bidirectional data-sharing software that allows hospitals to share back data with EMS to improve procedures and review outcomes. These tools deliver benefits to both patients and providers, such as: 

  • Increased Accuracy. A digital ePCR can be initiated at the time of first response, with easy to complete, preset forms helping ensure all pertinent questions are answered at first impression and patient records are complete. This digital record can then be easily handed off at the emergency department, as opposed to paper forms that has to be distributed and reentered by various hospital staff, and requested by physicians and nurses as needed later in the process. Instead, the ePCR started by the EMS team can be built upon and updated, easily referenced by all care team members. 
  • Improved Efficiency: Accurate and easily accessible digital records help reduce redundancies throughout the health care spectrum, even all the way down to discharge, billing, and follow up. Equipping all members of the care team with the same information saves manhours in tracking down records, re-asking the same questions, and having to compile information from numerous sources. 
  • Easier Review: Just like businesses benefit from regular reviews of processes and SOPs, health care providers can learn from what is working well and what needs improvement, thanks to easily analyzed metrics. Having a wealth of digital data available and ready to cross-reference can not only save money and improve efficiencies, but truly help identify ways for more positive outcomes and improved patient care. The ability for hospitals and EMS agencies to share this type of data back and forth promises to make smoother handoffs and foster a sense of teamwork between all members of the health care team.  

With more evidence that HIE tools offer real improvements in efficiencies and patient care, more and more providers are sure to be exploring ways to implement these systems into their infrastructure, continuing to drive up the effectiveness of care while driving down the cost. 

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