Electronic health information exchange is the sharing of records between health care facilities. The exchange is done in electronic format with strict standards set to ensure security and privacy of information. Nowadays, it is extremely rare to have a patient with a singular health record at a single facility. Health information exchange is becoming a vital part of health care today as society population flows between cities, insurance companies and different health care providers. This movement of society creates gaps of health knowledge at many facilities and it is these gaps that create treatment information, expense and time issues for many of us.
Often health care providers are completing patient treatment with only partial information. In accordance with privacy laws health care facilities have kept information well-guarded and private. While this is excellent for privacy it has led to a lack of information sharing that hinders patient treatment. Doctors that are treating a patient without the complete picture will often need to guess, order extra tests and take additional time that would not always be needed if they had all the necessary information. These additional diagnostic measures can cost time and money for the patient.
An important reason for electronic health information exchange is to decrease health care expenses for the patient. As mentioned health care providers will often order extra diagnostic tests for patients which can result in extra costs. While some diagnostic tests are necessary, there are many that could be avoided if health care providers had information available to them from other facilities in the exchange. Another large expense is unnecessary return visits, whether to the hospital or providers office. By having information available in the exchange, providers will not miss details while patients are present for treatment. Primary care providers will also be more aware of care received while under the care of others and provide better follow up.
Many have probably spent a large amount of time waiting in an emergency department or the doctor’s office. Some of this time spent waiting could be avoided if providers had information available to them that decreases the necessity of extra diagnostic testing and care measures. Also mentioned already is unnecessarily returning to the hospital or clinic is possible with lack of information during treatment and this can take extra time as well. In addition to lack of information causing delays, if one chooses not to participate in the electronic exchange, there could be additional time waiting for traditional health information exchange methods (fax, phone, messages) to occur.
Electronic health information exchange can provide many benefits to the patient including improved health care treatment, a decrease in health care expenses and a decrease in time spent. Several measures have taken place to ensure patient confidentiality, accurate information sharing and security of data. Again while participating in the exchange can lead to many benefits, it is up to the individual to decide their participation.