Healthcare News & Insights


Health Information Exchange (HIE)

When caring for patients, healthcare providers and physicians know that time is everything. The slightest delay in administering care, performing tests, or giving medication can significantly hinder a patient’s ability to recover, so every second counts. Although this fact is widely known, nearly half of all hospitals and clinics lose some of that valuable time searching for, retrieving, and providing the information that patients and doctors need at the point of care because they are not using today’s technologies to their advantage.

To combat this delay in information and care, administrators as well as state and federal lawmakers are looking to integrate this practice into public health. Health information exchange (HIE) is one of the solutions to this challenge that is allowing physicians and caregivers to access patient information faster than ever. Implementing HIE into patient record keeping means that important information can be shared throughout several health networks while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of its patients, and maintaining the security of the information.

Benefits of Implementing HIE

HIE is becoming one of the most widely adopted technologies to hit the healthcare industry, and has helped thousands of patients receive the care they need right at the time they need it. In fact, implementing HIE has been called a “win-win-win-win” for health plans, HIEs, doctors, and patients by Dr. Albert Tzeel, HumanaOne’s national medical director and author of a HIE study published in American Health & Drug Benefits.

Here are even more reasons HIE is beneficial in the healthcare industry:

  • Instant Access – Health networks using HIE don’t have to wait to get a patient’s files transferred or shuffle through drawers and shelves of files; they can simply access the information electronically within just a few seconds of the initial request.
  • Easy Sharing – The ability to easily share information across organizations within a whole region or even a hospital system has allowed healthcare providers to give more patient-centered care with easy access to medical information.
  • One-Stop-Shop for Patient Information – Whether a physician is looking for patient lab reports, test results, medical history, current medications, etc., they only need to look in one spot, the patient’s electronic medical file.
  • Cost Control – Physicians can cross-check patient’s records for expensive tests and procedures, like CT scans, EKGs, diagnostic radiology, and more to help make sure the same tests are not repeated unnecessarily.
  • Improved Patient Care – Healthcare providers will have all of the information they need at their disposal, and can now give the patient the medical attention they need at the point-of-care.
  • Reduced Errors – If patient information is inaccurate or incomplete, serious errors can be made, but using HIE systems can eliminate this threat.
  • Safety of Information – Patients and doctors won’t have to worry about files be misplaced, lost in a catastrophic event, or not enduring the test of time. With everything stored electronically, files and information can stay safe.
  • Identifying trends in Public Health – Search queries can be run to identify common illnesses and symptoms in a number of locations, on the local, state, or federal level, and can potentially help identify trends and threats to public health.

Challenges Facing HIE Implementation

Despite its advantages in the medical field, HIE has faced some challenges in terms of widespread adoption, mainly due to concerns over technological setbacks.

Here are some of the most common challenges facing those using HIE systems:

  • Technology –  Creating interoperable interfaces – The workforce is limited in this area, so building the technology that can get electronic files from doctors offices, specialists, clinics, and more to sync and integrate with the HIE system remains a challenge.
  • Scale – Many large hospital networks that have thousands of patient records to maintain are beginning to see challenges in terms of the size of their HIE system. Growing and expanding practices may have to wait for advances in technology and an increase in the workforce to be able to build networks that can hold large amounts of files.
  • Questions of Security – While security of patient information and files is very secure and technology continues to tighten the lock on valuable information, many prospective users of the systems do not feel confident in storing all patients’ confidential information on a network.

Despite these challenges, there are many proponents of HIE implementation across nearly every function of healthcare today. As more and more physicians and hospital networks turn to electronic storage of their data, HIE integration will be likely to follow, as more and more patients and healthcare providers are exposed to its advantages.