Health Information Exchange (HIE)

What is Health Information Exchange (HIE)?

Electronic health information exchange (HIE) allows physicians to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically. This reduces the need for the patient to transport or relay their medical history, lab results, images or prescriptions between physicians. Instead, this information is shared between physicians before the patient arrives for an appointment or goes to the pharmacy to pick up a medication. Most patient's medical information is stored on paper and when their medical information is shared between physicians, it happens by mail, fax or by patients themselves, who frequently carry their records from appointment to appointment. HIEs can greatly improve the completeness of patients' records as past history, current medications and other information are jointly reviewed during visits.

If a physician or group practice has successfully incorporated faxing patient information into their business process flow, they might question why they should transition to electronic health information exchange (HIE). Many benefits exist with information exchange regardless of the means by which it is transferred. However, the value of electronically exchanging is the standardization of data. Once standardized, the transferred data can seamlessly integrate into the recipients' Electronic Health Record (EHR), improving patient care.

For example: If laboratory results are received electronically and incorporated into a physician's EHR, a list of patients with diabetes can be generated. The physician can then determine which of these patients have uncontrolled blood sugar and schedule necessary follow-up appointments.

There are currently three key forms of health information exchange (HIE):

  1. Directed Exchange - Ability to send and receive secure information electronically between physicians to support coordinated care.
  2. Query-based Exchange - Ability for physicians to find and/or request information on a patient from other physicians, often used for unplanned care.
  3. Consumer Mediated Exchange - Ability for patients to aggregate and control the use of their health information among physicians.

The foundation of standards, policies and technology required to initiate all three forms of health information exchange are complete, tested, and available today. More information about ONC standards, policies and technology can be found here

What are the benefits of using HIE?

To better track and securely share patients’ complete medical histories, more and more health care physicians are participating in health information exchange HIE. HIE helps facilitate coordinated patient care, reduce duplicative treatments and avoid costly mistakes.
  • Provides a vehicle for improving quality and safety of patient care by reducing medication and medical errors.
  • Stimulates consumer education and patients' involvement in their own health care.
  • Increases efficiency by eliminating unnecessary paperwork.
  • Provides physicians with clinical decision support tools for more effective care and treatment.
  • Eliminates redundant or unnecessary testing.
  • Improves public health reporting and monitoring.
  • Creates a potential loop for feedback between health-related research and actual practice.
  • Facilitates efficient deployment of emerging technology and health care services.
  • Provides the backbone of technical infrastructure for leverage by national and State-level initiatives.
  • Provides a basic level of interoperability among electronic health records EHRs maintained by individual physicians and organizations.
  • Reduces health related costs.

Electronic health information systems can help prevent errors by ensuring that everyone involved in a patient’s care, whether in a primary care setting, a specialists’ office or emergency department has access to the same information. HIE also encourages efficient care by enabling automatic appointment reminders or follow-up instructions to be sent directly to patients, and prescriptions directly to pharmacies. In addition, HIE reduces the amount of time patients spend filling out paperwork and briefing their physicians on their medical history, allowing more time for discussions about health concerns and treatments. And by saving time for patients and physicians along the entire continuum of health care delivery, HIE has the potential to both reduce costs and improve health outcomes.

How to get started with HIE?

  • Greater Houston Healthconnect (GHH) - GHH was created to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the Greater Houston Area by providing rapid, electronic access to patient health information. Healthconnect is an independent, community supported organization serving healthcare providers within a 60-county region Greater Houston.