Factors like the new ICD-10 codes and impending stage 3 meaningful use standards may be the highlights of the health care industry at the moment, but there are a few priorities that the sector has been consistently working on for years now, one of which is health information exchange.
HIE is needed to improve the quality of patient care and engagement. The ability to share essential health information between doctors, patients and physicians in different care settings will also help reduce medical errors such as incorrect diagnoses. According to a recent study by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, HIE is improving across the industry.
New study shows HIE progress
Electronic health records have grown in popularity due to their ability to enhance workflows and save time on tedious processes that were once required with paper-based procedures. However, now that HIE is on an upswing among providers, the opportunity for advanced data sharing is sure to make EHRs even more beneficial for providers.
The ONC study showed that data sharing between doctors and their patients has significantly increased over the years. The results pointed to the jump between 2013 and 2014. In 2013, 46 percent of providers shared health data electronically with their patients, compared to 57 percent in 2014.
Not only has the number of patient-physician HIEs improved, but the way in which data is shared. For example, the survey found that over half of providers use secure messaging tools to send health information to patients and 47 percent used EHR access. This is a big increase compared to 2013, when 40 percent used secure messaging and 33 percent relied on EHRs to provide access to medical data.
While the percentage of physicians who shared data with other physicians also improved, the jump was not as drastic for provider-patient HIE. The ONC discovered that 42 percent of doctors shared health data with other providers in 2014, a 3 percent increase from 2013. Another one-third of physicians transferred data electronically with other ambulatory providers.
Data sharing spreads between physicians in different care settings
The percentage of physicians who shared patient data also depended on the type of physician. For example, long-term care, home health and behavioral health providers had the lowest HIE rate, with only 10 percent sharing information. However, the study found that physicians are now more likely to transfer patient information to providers outside of their specialty. This is important, as many people have various doctors for different aspects of their health, so they need to have their updated health data sent to their general physician after appointments with specialty doctors.
In addition to exchanging data with a wide range of providers, physicians have started sharing many types of health information. A total of 30 percent of physicians currently exchange all types of data, such as medication lists, patient problems, lab results and imaging reports. Meanwhile, 36 percent of providers share at least one of these types of data. Although the study found physicians are starting to exchange data with physicians in other care settings, the majority still primarily share with doctors within their practices.
As federal organizations like the Department of Health and Human Services continue to push for enhanced patient care and more doctor-patient interactions, HIE has become a necessity to get the health care industry to where it needs to be. It is so important because it enables doctors to create a more patient-centered care setting. As HIE has already shown major improvements between 2013 and 2014, the sector is likely to continue seeing more patient data sharing.