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The importance of health information exchange (HIE) has never been greater, with countless healthcare institutions requiring constant collaboration to provide their patients with the highest quality of care.

digital data files - health information exchange

Unfortunately, despite its high degree of relevance in the medical field, much of the infrastructure needed to efficiently move patient information between providers is underdeveloped or even non-existent. Infrastructure development requires a significant time and resource investment to be made.

This has become a considerable obstacle in times of intense healthcare strain, such as the COVID-19 pandemic; however, there have also been many instances of healthcare providers coming up with innovative ways to promote HIE when needed.

Why Implementation Is So Crucial

Especially in recent years, the number of times healthcare institutions have consulted HIE networks has skyrocketed. Information requests have usually been made on the local or state level, where patients typically have their healthcare resources concentrated.

States, or even entire regions, which lack adequate HIE network support are likely to encounter certain issues in the healthcare field at much higher rates, such as redundant testing, medical errors, delays in care, and unnecessary procedures.

Areas without sufficient HIE are almost always going to experience inefficiencies and subpar patient outcomes.

Places Health Information Exchange Is Most Needed

Due to the reduced concentration of healthcare resources in rural areas, access to healthcare information databases is incredibly important. With hospitals and specialists so far apart from each other, having a common means of information exchange is an absolute must.

However, rural areas have typically been the last to expand HIE infrastructure and it’s only been recently that more rural states have started getting the resources they need. States such as Montana, which recently launched its own statewide HIE Big Sky Care Connect, have experienced information exchange issues regarding shared patients and getting enough providers together for the project to be truly effective.

Important things like patient profile construction are often found to be difficult to access without the proper connections in place.

Where HIE Innovation Has Seen the Greatest Success

For areas lacking HIE infrastructure, the outlook isn’t entirely pessimistic. There have been many states that had their HIE needs met through unorthodox means, the most frequently seen is the incorporation of already large-sized healthcare networks that can provide a lot of background data that can make information exchange easier and more complete.

In California, for instance, the inclusion of Adventist Health, a hospital network with over 7 million patients, into the state’s HIE has greatly expanded the amount of information other healthcare facilities in California will have access to.

Advances in Infrastructure Installation

HIE establishment has become much more expansive as time has gone on, with the creation of national networks such as PULSE and the inclusion of not just giant hospital networks into HIEs, but also patients, local information sharing networks, and government entities.

This collaboration between both private and public institutions has allowed for a considerable amount of coordination to be done when faced with mass medical emergencies such as natural disasters or public health crises. It has also made the facilitation of medical processes much easier between institutions like the use of medical transcription services to clarify much-needed information.