Health Information Exchange (HIE): Defining its importance and mapping out a plan for progress

As the nation swirls amidst major healthcare transformations, many people may be confused with all the terminology being thrown around. In particular, Health Information Exchange (HIE), which is a common buzz phrase these days, is often times confused with Health Insurance Exchanges, and therefore causes a variety of healthcare stakeholders to misinterpret information being shared on the topic.

In this blog, we will try to eliminate some confusion, paint a clearer picture of Health Information Exchanges, what it is, and where an individual can find more resources.

What is Health Information Exchange (HIE)?

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), HIE refers to the electronic sharing of information among organizations.

This health information exchange can provide several benefits, including the ability to serve as a vehicle for improving quality and safety of patient care, providing a basic level of interoperability among Electronic Health Records (EHRs) maintained by individual physicians and organizations, and facilitating efficient deployment of emerging technology and healthcare services.

A work in progress

As the nation works to transform healthcare delivery into a patient-centered system focused on quality care, programs and initiatives from the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) and The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are focused on new service delivery and payment models that encourage better patient care and improved coordination among providers.

In a recent white paper, HHS and CMS discuss Principles & Strategies for Accelerating HIE which range from interoperability to providing incentives to providers. One key principle directly relates to patient engagement:

HHS will seek to ensure that all new regulations and guidance on existing programs enable a patient’s health information to follow them wherever they access care to support patient-centered care delivery. An interoperable system would provide consistent and timely access to standardized health information that can be shared between providers, specialists, hospitals, and other support and enabling service providers.

While the HHS focus is ensuring the structural support for the Health Information Exchange, the question is how having access to health information can facilitate patient engagement.  Recently, the National eHealth Collaborative published the Patient Engagement Framework, which provides a guide for using e-health tools and resources.  Based on the Meaningful Use objectives, the Framework identifies tools and resources to consider across 5 phases of patient engagement:

  • Inform me
  • Engage me
  • Empower me
  • Partner with me
  • Support my e-community

The framework highlights the promise of HIE in facilitating a patient-centered collaborative approach to healthcare.  The ultimate goal is turning HIE into meaningful interactions between patients and providers to support the best possible health outcomes.

For more information:

Webinar: CMS/ONC Joint Webinar on Accelerating Health Information Exchange

White paper: Principles and Strategies for Accelerating HIE

National eHealth Collaborative’s Patient Engagement Framework:

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