How Health Information Exchanges (HIE’s) Help Both Patients & Providers

Let’s face it; the Healthcare IT world is a mysterious place for most patients.  This personal story provides a real-world example of how technology can impact patients and help providers facilitate more effective care.

I live in a small town on the outskirts of Cincinnati and chose to have my healthcare provided in that community.  My primary care physician is an incredible individual and I feel very lucky to have her.  She operates in a physician practice that is independently owned and has only five providers on staff.  In the spring of this year, while driving on my way home from work I had a fainting episode.  Because I had no known health conditions, it was safe to say that I knew something wasn’t right.  I decided it was in my best interest to make sure that go see her the very next day.  She promptly ordered a series of tests in an outpatient setting.

I showed up at the local hospital for my half day of tests.  First was an MRI of the brain, next was an echocardiogram, and then finally I was to be fit with a heart monitor.  Apparently fainting is sourced from either the brain or the heart, so she was covering all bases.  I had my MRI, which was a piece of cake, then had my echo, and then proceeded to a waiting room until they could take me for the heart monitor.   In that waiting room, my cell phone rang, and that’s when my life changed.

It was my primary care physician on my cell phone saying I needed to be evaluated immediately for potential brain surgery to remove a cyst.  First I panicked.  Then I focused on getting scheduled to see a neurosurgeon later that day.  It was only later that I was blown away by the fact that within 30 minutes of completing an MRI, my physician had known about the Radiologists reading and went into action mode.  This fast and simple step of sharing my information was a direct result of having an electronic “Health Information Exchange” (HIE) in our region.  This exchange of information allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other health care providers and patients to appropriately access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically—improving the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care.

Both my primary care physician’s practice and the hospital where I received my tests, participated in the HealthBridge HIE.  HealthBridge is a nonprofit Health Information Technology (HIT) organization in Cincinnati who works to deliver clinical results (lab and screening results) electronically from one health care provider to another through a Health Information Exchange.  When I took my paperwork to the hospital to get scheduled for my exams, they marked the ordering provider as my physician.  When the Radiologist input his interpretation of the MRI, the hospital computer system sent that result to HealthBridge.  HealthBridge was then able to see that my primary care physician ordered the test, and sent the results directly into her Electronic Health Record (EHR) system at her practice.  The fact that the findings were flagged “critical,” triggered an alert in the workflow of her EHR system, notifying her immediately that they were available.  So, within 30 seconds of the Radiologist finalizing his report of my MRI, those findings were in my physician office EHR alerting her.  This automated electronic exchange of information is the single most reliable and important purpose of an HIE: get clinical data where it needs to go automatically.

Without the HIE, my situation could have been much worse.  The hospital would have had to fax the results to my physician office.  That process could have taken a day or more, or the hospital could have had the wrong fax number, or the fax could have simply gotten misfiled among all the other faxes that constantly arrive.

In the end, I had many visits to the neurosurgeon and my primary care physician and each time I arrived at one location, they already knew what happened at the other provider, all because the HIE ensures the data flows immediately and to the right location.

My final diagnosis?  A colloid cyst of the 3rd ventricle of the brain, which is able to be monitored and managed without any surgery or medication.   I now receive MRI’s every 6 months to see if the cyst grows or not.  But, thanks to all the fantastic physicians and hospitals participating in HIE activities, this condition was able to be identified and treated immediately and I have been able to continue to live my life without any major intervention.

Jason Buckner

Jason Buckner
VP of Operations
HealthBridge

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