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Health Information Exchange Brings Higher Quality, Lower Costs

Health information exchange can positively improve care quality and lower costs, but won’t reach its full potential until more providers adopt data exchange tools.

Health information exchange results in higher quality and lower costs

Source: Thinkstock

By Jessica Kent

- Health information exchange (HIE) continues to improve care quality, enhance patient safety, and reduce healthcare costs, but more providers need to employ HIE to maximize its potential, according to a report to the community from HEALTHeLINK.

"The value of having a more complete picture of a patient's clinical history at the point of care for both the provider and the patient is reflected through our annual report to the community and reinforced by results from a survey of Western New York health care consumers we conducted last year," Dan Porreca, HEALTHeLINK's executive director, said in a statement.

"Despite this success, the fact remains that we have more work to do and need more providers to utilize HIE to achieve our goals of enhancing patient care to its fullest potential as well as to mitigate rising health care costs."

HEALTHeLINK has worked to increase HIE in Western New York over the past year, reaching and then surpassing a million patient consents in 2017. In addition, approximately 96 percent of consented patients authorize their health information to be shared among treating providers.

“With that consent, health care providers can access their patients’ medical information via HEALTHeLINK, which has proven to improve the quality of care, enhance safety, and reduce health care costs by eliminating duplicate testing,” the report states.

HEALTHeLINK is further contributing to patient data access by offering providers access to nearly 100 percent of laboratory results generated in Western New York, as well as more than 90 percent of radiology reports.

Participating providers can now also securely access the health data of minors aged 10 to 17 through HEALTHeLINK. This access can allow physicians to make better and more informed decisions for minor patients who may have to see multiple providers, the report notes.

Moreover, HEALTHeLINK has increased its collaboration both statewide and nationally so that providers can make the best clinical choices for their patients.

By participating in the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY), HEALTHeLINK allows participating physicians to access patient data from outside Western New York. Physicians can also see if there is clinical information on their patients from other New York regional health organizations.

“With this connection, participating providers receive a more complete picture of their patients’ health information, no matter where in New York State they seek treatment,” says the report.

HEALTHeLINK is also a founding member of the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC), which is the national trade association of HIEs.

In addition to increasing provider access to patient data, HEALTHeLINK is aiming to enhance data quality over the next year.

HEALTHeLINK has developed scorecards containing information about types, completeness, and quality of data in different practices. The scorecards were implemented in Western New York hospitals in 2017, and HEALTHeLINK plans to implement them in practices in 2018. Providers can use the scorecard information to modify workflow and close data gaps.

The use of HEALTHeLINK has also expanded into different areas of healthcare over the past year.

The report states that over the past year, patient HEALTHeLINK lookup in emergency departments grew by 50 percent. In addition, HEALTHeLINK has implemented single-click access to patient electronic health records (EHRs), easing emergency department provider and staff workflows.

The University of Buffalo has also expanded HIE to all medical residents in its 19 programs through access to HEALTHeLINK, and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center recently introduced their residents to HEALTHeLINK.

While Porreca applauded the strides HEALTHeLINK has made in expanding HIE, he also noted that more provider support is needed to fully leverage its potential.

"After just over a decade of collaboration with the region's hospital systems, health plans and providers, we are more focused than ever on building our offerings to support frequent users of HIE to maximize its value while at the same time continuing our efforts to persuade those who are not utilizing HIE."

"If HEALTHeLINK is going to work to its fullest potential, then we need the support of the entire Western New York community, especially among those who are not utilizing our HIE capabilities," he concluded.

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