Saturday, September 10, 2011
Future Steps For Health Information Exchange
Through a process called health information exchange, medical information can be shared electronically across organizations within a geographic area or hospital system. Integrating disparate systems that contain electronic medical records, or EMRs, has become a necessary step to remaining competitive within the ever-evolving healthcare industry. Clinical data can be accessed more safely and quickly than in the past. Through EMR integration designed to permit the exchange of information, healthcare quality is improved, treatment and processing costs are lowered, and medical errors are reduced. Healthcare providers such as hospitals, primary care physicians, and laboratories can access and update medical records from various locations. Using a physician portal, a surgeon can even deliver updates from the patient's bedside. By providing physicians with the ability to access patient medical information via laptops, tablet computers, and smartphones used at the point of care, improved treatment and minimization of duplicate or conflicting tests or prescriptions result. From a larger-scale perspective, healthcare entities experience streamlined work processes and improved efficiencies. This reduces costs, something that provides much-needed assistance to healthcare systems at risk of going defunct. The U.S. is currently in the process of developing and implementing state and federal regulations regarding the exchange of, and technology used to capture, health information. Considered a new industry, government regulations, state-sponsored organizations are already changing the playing field. In addition, HL7, a global authority regarding standards for the interoperability of health information technology, is playing a strong part. Only about 25 health information exchange communities have been established in the U.S. The electronic transition has a long way to go, with the majority of the established entities still being tied to independent or government grant funding to stay in operation. As more communities arise, each will need to find a way to be self-sustainable in order for this endeavor to be successful. In this situation, failure really is not an option.