Health Information Exchanges and the EMR Selection Process

When comparing EMR software solutions, keep in mind the need for interconnectivity with outside systems: local hospitals, labs, transcription services, and many other beyond those. It’s crucial that the vendors you are considering can currently accommodate exports and imports via interfaces. You will want to exchange at least demographics, labs, meds, allergies, problems.

Beyond these interfaces, a bigger-picture plan is in the works from HHS. They are funding and planning projects to provide data pathways for hospitals and clinics across each state, potentially building a country wide Health Information Exchange.

Here is a summary from the ONC:

About the State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program
In February and March 2010, ONC granted 56 awards totaling $548 million to help states (including territories) develop and advance resources to facilitate the exchange of health information among health care providers and hospitals within their jurisdictions to ultimately encourage and support information exchange across states. The awards were made to states or organizations designated by states to participate in the program. The program aims to ensure that every eligible health care provider has at least one option for health information exchange that meets the requirements of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, defined by CMS in a final rule released on July 13, 2010. To this end, awardees will use their funding to:

* Create and implement up-to-date privacy and security requirements for HIE
* Coordinate with Medicaid and state public health programs to establish an integrated approach
* Monitor and track meaningful use HIE capabilities in their state
* Set strategy to meet gaps in HIE capabilities
* Ensure consistency with national standards

HIE is fundamental to realizing the full potential of meaningful use of electronic health records and health information technology that can lead to improved coordination, quality, and efficiency of health care.

The PCAST (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) report on Health Information Technology highlighted the capabilities of an EMR to exchange data in structured format, allowed more helpful and real time data to be submitted for clinical trials and community health trending.

EMR Software Pro consultants have seen first hand that the “structured” or “discrete” data elements in an EMR software lead to a standardization of data in patient charts. This opens the door to sharing, trending, efficiency, and other benefits to improve patient health and health care costs.

Hospitals and clinics seeking to compare EMR systems should inquire about vendors’ roadmaps. What are their plans to be a part of future HIEs and allow you to take advantage of the increased communication, information, and cooperation?