To date, 43.5% of physicians reported having a basic EHR and only 9.8% met meaningful use criteria. This means practices still have a long way to go as Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements put yet a bigger challenge right in front of them. If this fact fails to impress you, consider this one – over a third of physicians want to replace or upgrade their ambulatory EHR systems, according to HIMSS Analytics' 5th Annual Ambulatory Practice Management & Electronic Health Record Study that came out this June. The study also shows that almost half of the physician groups plan to join HIE.
Now this is a positive trend that proves what huge potential Health Information Exchanges currently have. As a physician, being part of an HIE means you can instantly access your patients’ comprehensive health data. As a patient, having your family doctor participating in an HIE ensures that your and your family’s health records will be available wherever and whenever needed. So it’s a win-win.
HIEs are blooming in every state. Some states, such as New York, have to take an extra step, forming Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) first. It is only a matter of time now until those RHIOs integrate with each other to establish health information exchange on the state level. Soon after, the state exchanges will cease to suffice and will be unified into an integrated federal health exchange.
We can feel the importance of such a federal system even now given how mobile people in the US are. Think of students who go to college hundreds of miles away from home and visit their families over Christmas break and summer; or those who go on business trips on a regular basis. Rather than carrying your health records with you (electronic or hardcopy), wouldn’t it be easier and safer if your records could be sent to any physician upon request?
This is when the question of data security has to be taken most seriously. It is very helpful when your doctor can access your comprehensive health data (such as medical history, allergies, recent lab results) to make an informed decision, but what if it becomes accessible to unauthorized parties? The good news is this security issue is being taken seriously – Idaho State University was fined $400,000 for violating HIPAA regulations.
Hopefully, this will motivate HIE providers and participating facilities to efficiently protect patients’ data. When this is taken care of, it will be possible to think of health information exchange globally. Why is it so important? Because this means whether your loved ones are at home, visiting a friend who lives three hours away or are halfway across the world travelling; their health records will keep them safe.