Healthcare Information Exchange: Transformation During Crisis
Tue Feb 23, 2021 | Genesis Technologies
Healthcare IT staff, providers and vendors trying to make patient health information easily accessible face many obstacles. What is at the root of these issues, and how can technology vendors help the healthcare industry overcome them?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was a milestone in the healthcare industry, allowing patients to maintain control over their health records. Since records were mainly paper-based at the time, though, searching and sharing documents was a time-consuming and often expensive process. The HITECH Act of 2009, created to expand the use of electronic health record (EHR) systems and ensure healthcare organizations were complying with HIPAA Privacy and Security rules, addressed these issues, making EHRs a foundational part of efficient healthcare information exchanges.
However, adoption of EHRs was uneven and often involved disparate systems that did not easily lend themselves to interoperability. When the COVID-19 pandemic put increased pressure on healthcare information management systems, it highlighted challenges in interoperability, accessibility and security.
The white paper “Healthcare Information Exchange: Transformation During Crisis” details what a healthcare organization should consider when choosing and working with a technology vendor to overcome these challenges, and highlights solutions for a transformative digital healthcare information exchange system.
Problem 1: EHR Interoperability Challenges
A patient’s EHR is created from information found in data points scattered across multiple systems. Sources of this data can include digitized paper records, computerized healthcare records, diagnostic imaging devices, medical monitoring equipment, patient wearables, emails, and more. Together, they build a valuable single-source record of a patient’s diagnoses, treatment, and complete medical history.
The ability to simply and efficiently share EHRs between providers is not only linked to successful patient outcomes, it is key to telehealth services, which ranked No. 1 in top-of-mind priorities of healthcare IT professionals as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in 2020.
A HIMMS/Forrester survey asked a group of healthcare IT professionals, “What is the most pressing technology issue you are facing now that you need the vendor community to prioritize?” The top two answers involved integrating new solutions like virtual care and remote collaboration with existing clinical workflows, and sharing data across an increasingly fractured continuum of care.
It is difficult to find one technology vendor with the answer for all interoperability challenges. Instead, healthcare IT professionals should seek technology providers that work together to provide whole coverage. Look for providers that are best in their practice, whether content management, process management, or data analytics, and who have a deep understanding of requirements and standards for interoperability. Paper and printing continue to be a large part of healthcare information management, so print management must also be part of the equation. Vendors should be able to demonstrate their solutions can seamlessly integrate with other systems and healthcare processes in use, and work across a variety of data formats. The result for the healthcare provider should be a holistic EHR strategy with robust interoperability that can deliver cost-effective, successful outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.
Problem 2: Accessibility of Patient Healthcare Information
Increased use of EHRs and advancements in digital information delivery platforms have also allowed patients to take a more active role in managing their health. Reports show as many as 93% of patients can view their health records online, although only 64% use digital devices and mobile apps to manage their health. COVID-19 exacerbated the need for patient access to records and for telehealth services, as ease of access for both patient and provider helps organizations deliver effective virtual healthcare – a need that is projected to grow even as COVID-19 subsides.
Interoperability issues also impact access to information shared across patient portals, which must support a variety of data and file formats. A technology vendor must be able to provide integration with multiple healthcare information exchange access systems, support the various viewing platforms a patient or caregiver may use, and provide convenient access and viewing of health information as a health organization pursues a holistic healthcare information exchange strategy.
Problem 3: Information Security
Before the impact of COVID-19, an AMA survey showed 83% of physicians had experienced a cyberattack. That number has only increased as hackers take advantage of an overworked, overstressed medical system. The ease with which EHR and digital healthcare information exchanges allow patients and healthcare organizations to have access to private health information has also introduced potential data breach points and vulnerabilities that can be left open by unwitting patients.
Health organizations must have security mechanisms and standards in place that not only safeguard patient information but protect the organization from cyber threats that use healthcare information exchange endpoints to attack the broader IT infrastructure. Organizations should look for technology vendors that can demonstrate their solutions deliver security by design with features that protect healthcare information and IT infrastructure.
As hospitals and other health organizations navigate through the current COVID-19 crisis and beyond, the selection of technology vendors in support of healthcare information exchange and the use of EHR is more important than ever. Selecting vendors that meet the requirements outlined here will put a healthcare organization on track to creating a holistic, efficient, and safe digitally transformed healthcare information exchange.
Contact Genesis Technologies works with many large health organizations, learn how we can help with solutions that delivery security designed with features that protect healthcare information and IT infrastructure. Call us at 800.436.1994 or fill out our contact form with your information and a sales or solution expert will be in touch.
Stay in the Know
Stay up to date with Genesis Technologies.