The Importance of the Health Information Exchange

By: Renee Broadbent, MBA, CCSFP

I’ve been in healthcare information technology for too many years to count!  In that time, I’ve seen so much change and most of it good, but there have been challenges as well, like lack of interoperability, regulatory conflict, data hoarding, information blocking and inconsistencies around the adoption of Health Information Exchanges (HIE).  

Data is essential for most everything we do in life.  In healthcare, data is very important because it directs us on how to help our patients.  Technologists can sometimes get caught up in the bells and whistles, but at the end of the day, the patient is the center of everything we do.  It is important that we remain focused on that point, so that the best technical decisions are made about data and data availability.

An important evolution in amassing and sharing data has been the HIE.  It has had a bumpy history for sure, with some stunning successes and abysmal failures.  The failures are primarily due to lack of adoption and a model that’s workable for all levels of providers. Charging the average physician thousands of dollars a year to get a few more pieces of data on a patient isn’t workable.  BUT maybe those pieces of information would help inform a better clinical decision and outcome for the patient.  In addition, an agnostic HIE offers the best option for accumulating and sharing data to those who need it most, including the patient.

In the past several years, there are some organizations and states that have successfully implemented HIEs.  For example, the states of Maine, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Vermont all have robust HIEs. Organizations like Aledade have done a great job of connecting physicians and data.  With all that, it’s still in individual silos and not readily shared. Regulations have always challenged HIEs and data sharing because on the one hand, they support interoperability, in fact mandate it, while still relying on HIPAA to guide sharing and access. As time progresses, these two opposites will come closer together to get us there.

At SoNE HEALTH, we fully support the concept of the HIE. As participants in the state HIE of Connecticut, Connie, we are already seeing the unlimited potential of what it will be able to do to help our patients, providers and our organizations deliver better healthcare. While the state mandates joining Connie for specific covered entities, they have made it easy to do and have provided the support necessary so that organizations, providers, and patients can fully leverage the power of the data. Wouldn’t it be great if all these HIEs could ‘talk ‘to one another?  Imagine if you were a patient and you were traveling and got sick and needed to go to the Emergency Room. Then imagine that the person treating you, who doesn’t know you had access to information that maybe lifesaving? That to me is the power behind the data. 

Renee Broadbent, MBA, CCSFP is Vice President of Information Technology and Information Security Officer at SoNE HEALTH