Health Information Exchange Essay Example
Technology has greatly evolved in the last few decades, and it has greatly impacted various social and economic sectors. Health is one of the sectors that has been greatly influenced by technology. One of the elements of the health sector that has been massively impacted by technology is data and information storage. This data and information mainly pertains to patient medical history and records. Traditionally, records were mainly kept in physical paper files but in recent years, there has been a shift from this type of physical filing to electronic data storage. Electronic health records have taken precedence, and currently, a lot of medical data is stored electronically.
Health information exchange is a process that has been greatly facilitated by this shift towards electronic data storage. In its most basic terms, health information exchange refers to the act or process of transferring health information between two entities by electronic means (Vest & Gamm, 2010). It provides a means through which health information can be transferred between different systems while at the same time maintaining the meaning and credibility of this information that is being exchanged. Therefore, a health information exchange system avails a distinctive set of technologies that facilitate the acquirement of patient health information and data that can be utilized to make more informed and safer medical decisions (Vest & Gamm, 2010). A health information exchange system is usually created by large medical entities with adequate resources such as hospitals. The working of a health information exchange is aided by the existence of another element known as electronic health record. An electronic health record is a computerized record keeping system at given medical center or institution (Vest & Gamm, 2010). Therefore, health information exchange is the system of exchanging, transferring or sharing medical information from electronic health record system to another. In a nutshell, the main functions of a health information exchange is to facilitate the access and the retrieval of clinical data in order to provide, timely, effective efficient, equitable, safe and patient-centered care . Another distinguishable aspect of HIE is that it can occur across various organizations within a community or a region.
A Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) refers to an organization that assembles health care stakeholders such as hospitals within a well-defined and specific geographical area and governs or oversees the process of health information exchange between these stakeholders with the ultimate goal being to improve the provision of health care in the immediate community (Kass-Hout et al., 2007). While the RHIO, therefore, involves a given geographical area, a HIE has the ability to connect the different geographical areas together (Vest & Gamm, 2010). RHIO mainly functions an organization while HIE is merely the mobilization of information. An RHIO is typically made up of various stakeholders as mentioned and these include healthcare providers such as hospitals. Others include public health departments, laboratories, insurance entities, payers and so on. The RHIO is often under the management of a board that includes members from all participating entities. The RHIO determines and facilitates the reaching of a consensus on the information that can be exchanged between the entities (Kass-Hout et al., 2007). One of the pre-requisites of participating or taking part in health information exchange is the capacity and ability to efficiently store and manage medical data. Because of this, an RHIO also functions by providing programs to affiliated entities; programs that can help them in their adoption of IT.
In comparison to both HIE and RHIO, the Nationwide Health Information Network differs significantly both in structure and functions. In general terms, it refers to a set of policies, services and standards that facilitate secure health information exchange electronically or via the internet (Kass-Hout et al., 2007). The NHIN essentially avails a foundation or basis for the exchange of health data and information across varied entities; this can be within communities as well as across the entire nation.
The NHIN perhaps has a similarity to the RHIO in that both mainly operate in an organizational format. However, the scope of the NHIN is wider and currently, its portfolio includes even federal entities including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense, the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Community Health information Collaborative (CHIC)(Kass-Hout et al., 2007). All the organizations within this entity are accountable for the security and privacy of patient data, and each is obligated to put in place measures to protect data.
For the goals of each of these entities to be achieved and in order to promote excellence, there is a need for sufficient governance in health care organizations. This includes constant checking of IT infrastructure and the proper maintenance of this infrastructure. In addition, there needs to be regular updating of all data and information that might need to be shared. This will ensure that all the health care organizations participating in health information exchange are par or at the same level with each other, and they do not inconvenience each other. Governance also ensures that the set polices and standards of information exchange are not violated.
Kass-Hout, T. A., Gray, S. K., Massoudi, B. L., Immanuel, G. Y., Dollacker, M., & Cothren, R. (2007). NHIN, RHIOs, and public health. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 13(1), 31-34.
Vest, J. R., & Gamm, L. D. (2010). Health information exchange: persistent challenges and new strategies. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 17(3), 288-294.
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