Increased EHR data exchange is beginning to play an important role in reforming the healthcare industry and enhancing the quality of care. Essentially, EHR data exchange is being used to transform the efficiency of care, engage patients, support population health management, and boost healthcare quality.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) explains that the benefits of exchanging EHR information include reducing test redundancy and improving efficiency by ensuring all healthcare professionals handling a patient’s care have access to the same data. Additionally, EHR systems provide a more streamlined approach to administrative tasks and in doing so the costs associated with these aspects of care are reduced.
Through patient portals and the curtailing of redundant paperwork due to the growth of health information exchange (HIE), patient engagement is also increased. In fact, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has elevated the importance of patient engagement by incorporating patient-centered conditions into Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements.
For example, the EHR Incentive Programs calls for patients to be able to access their health information and communicate with their healthcare professionals electronically. Many patients have already received follow-up or preventive care reminders and used a patient portal to access their medical data such lab test results and current medication lists. Privacy and security of these messaging services are also of the utmost importance to the healthcare field, as it is a major part of Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements.
As part of its Health IT Success Stories series, ONC discussed the patient engagement initiatives at Helping Hands Pediatrics, Inc., a small clinic located in Sharon, Penn. Using this practice’s assessment tools, patients with asthma are able to contemplate how the condition influences their day-to-day life.
“Through the integration of assessment tools, the children in our practice really get a chance to think about their disease and how it affects their daily life. This sense of ownership in their disease management was well worth the effort,” Office Manager Angie Chlpka told ONC representatives.
Along with increasing patient engagement, EHR data exchange improves population health management by allowing physicians to coordinate with public health officials and improve community health initiatives.
EHR systems can improve public health reporting by offering an efficient data collection process with the ability to share information across various healthcare facilities. For example, immunization registries and electronic laboratory reporting provide a streamlined system in which physicians can send population health data to public health officials.
This type of information exchange could play a large role in studying, preventing, and managing disease. For instance, clinicians should be able to receive alerts on major public health concerns in the near future. EHR technology also offers a way to improve communication and collaboration between public health officials and physicians.
One of the most important roles EHR systems play in healthcare reform is in quality improvements. EHR technology is poised to reduce medical errors and drug prescription mistakes. On the whole, this should lead to better patient health outcomes and improved safety.
Accurate and error-free EHR data is tied directly to quality improvements in the healthcare industry. Poor or insufficient data, on the other hand, will reduce patient safety and undermine the effectiveness of HIE, according to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Enhanced decision-making and quality care delivery is directly linked to complete and accurate EHR data. In order to ensure data quality is first-rate, AHIMA advises medical organizations to focus on data capture and improving clinical documentation practices. Also, incorporating uniform data models will better establish the reliability of the information stored in EHR systems.
Whether it’s patient engagement and greater healthcare efficiency or better population health management capabilities and quality improvements, the collection and sharing of EHR data plays a large role in the ongoing healthcare reform across the nation.