Healthcare News & Insights

Electronic health data transfer: Where hospitals stand right now

Is your hospital still using faxes to transmit patients’ health info after they’re discharged to various facilities and providers? While many facilities still are, it’s time to get on the bandwagon with electronic data transfer to share patients’ info because of all the benefits available. 

According to a data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, hospitals have made significant strides toward having interoperable electronic health records (EHR) systems that transmit info seamlessly between them. They’ve also made progress with sending EHR info to others electronically in general.

In fact, more than half of hospitals routinely used four or more electronic methods to send a summary of care to organizations outside their hospital systems. Almost 80% use more than one electronic method to send summary of care records, and 61% use more than one electronic method to receive them.

The most common electronic method used by hospitals to transmit health info was via a health information systems provider (HISP). Nearly half of hospitals (49%) used a standalone HISP or one provided by a third party to receive summaries of care, while 68% chose this method to send them.

Other popular electronic methods of info transmission were:

  • a state, regional or local health information organization (43% used to receive, 55% used to send)
  • a single EHR vendor network (37% used to receive, 42% used to send)
  • an e-health exchange (23% used to receive, 29% used to send)
  • a provider portal for view-only access to the EHR (39% used to receive, 58% used to send)
  • an interface connection between EHRs (31% used to send, 49% used to receive), and
  • a multi-EHR vendor network (22% used to receive, 24% used to send).

Despite how common electronic info transfer has become in health care, mailing or faxing over patient records to other providers is still a popular method of data transmission: 73% of facilities receive patient info through mail or fax, while 66% send it this way.

E-faxing via an EHR system was also popular, with 45% using this method to receive info and 63% using it to send info.

Why going electronic works best

Most hospitals sent and received electronic records with a mix of both electronic (EHR-driven) and nonelectronic (mail and fax) methods. However, going fully electronic when transmitting patient data has many benefits.

Per the data brief, the more electronic methods a hospital used to receive summary of care records, the more patient health info clinicians had readily available when making care decisions. Having that info at providers’ fingertips can help prevent poor patient outcomes such as readmissions, adverse events involving medication errors and more.

To make sure your facility is effectively using all the electronic methods at your disposal to transmit patient info, it may be a good idea to touch base with your IT department to ask them about your EHR’s capabilities and how well they’re being used to meet the goals of interoperabililty and seamless data transfer among outside providers and care settings.

Regularly reviewing what your EHR can do when it comes to sending patients’ info and tailoring its functions to your needs is essential to taking full advantage of the technology that’s available to help your hospital provide better patient care.

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