We all know how much progress has been made on the Electronic Health Record (EHR) front. But digitization of data was only the first step. Ensuring the data are accessible, manageable, and exchangeable is also key.
That is where Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) come in, breaking down the silos of data residing in legacy systems and disparate organizations to improve the quality of healthcare and reduce the cost of delivery. For sure, HIEs are emerging quickly. 49 out of 50 states now have a statewide HIE, reported EHR Intelligence in April. And encouraged by new payment models and other trends, healthcare providers are overcoming their competitive instincts and antiquated processes to share patient data for clinical and administrative purposes.
But progress isn’t fast enough. So long as HIEs try to offer their services using legacy technology, then data gaps will persist. This greatly limits the usefulness of a HIE, as well as its ability to serve. No wonder a 2021 study published by the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) found that HIEs were used in less than half of patient referrals. Despite strong interest in a nationwide HIE in the U.S. called the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, or TEFCA, actual rollout appears to be years away.
If your organization operates an HIE, or participates in a larger regional or state-wide one, you should ask yourself the question: Does our current data interoperability technology create barriers that slow or prevent patients, applications, or healthcare providers from exchanging patient data electronically?
If the honest answer is “Yes,” then read on. Here are four reasons why investing in the modernization of your HIE technology will deliver huge benefits for your organization, your members, your partners, and your patients.
1. Improve patient care and outcomes.
This is the bottom-line KPI for any HIE and healthcare organization. Already, the quality of modern healthcare depends greatly upon the quality of the patient data — the amount that is broadly-accessible and also quickly-deliverable in case of emergencies.
To enable that, a modern HIE will need to integrate data from many different systems, reducing data sprawl and minimizing incompatibility between different software and services. And that will save lives.
The IT director at one of Cloudticity’s HIE clients learned this lesson first-hand, when his two-year old daughter presented with a hairline fracture in her leg bone. The examining doctor reasonably assumed that the fracture was caused by a fall and put her leg in a cast.
The next day, a review of the girl’s medical records revealed neonatal open-heart surgery for a birth defect. A cardiologist quickly connected the seemingly routine fracture to surgical complications that could have killed her if not treated immediately. This life-saving diagnosis was only possible because all the doctors could quickly and easily access the girl’s entire medical history in one place: the HIE built by Cloudticity (learn more by scrolling down to the video here).
An HIE built on modern cloud-based technology has the option to start deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) models that can analyze data and proactively spot trends or potential problems that providers would not otherwise easily be able to diagnose.
2. Boost your top and bottom line.
Modern, cloud-native HIEs with centralized data repositories can slash your organization’s data center bill, reduce database storage and IT costs, and minimize the number of disparate, expensive-to-maintain, legacy servers. In addition, technical staff can be repurposed and deployed on projects that bring more value to the organization, like creating and deploying lifesaving healthcare solutions. A modern cloud-native infrastructure is also more developer-friendly, allowing organizations to innovate and iterate more quickly.
Such cost-saving opportunities should not be surprising. What may surprise you is that modernizing your HIE can transform this part of your IT from a cost center into a revenue generator. Take one of our most innovative customers, Michigan Health Information Network Shared Services (MiHIN). MiHIN moved all of its data to AWS Cloud in 2016. Cloudticity also helped MiHIN build a compliance platform and gain EHNAC and HITRUST certification.
A game-changing new concept, however, is a service that MiHIN has built called Interoperability Land™(IOL). IOL is a FHIR-based development environment that lets healthcare organizations test that the solutions they build and deploy are in compliance with the latest healthcare regulations such as the 21st Century Cures Act and ONC/CMS Final Rule, as well as inter-operate with other organizations and systems. MiHIN offers IOL as a software-as-a-service to subscribing healthcare organizations.
A modern, cloud-native HIE infrastructure can also enable you to aggregate and clean data as a service for client organizations, such as an insurance company or other healthcare payer. You can also use integrated data to create and sell apps. That being said, there are numerous opportunities to boost your top and bottom line with a modern HIE infrastructure.
3. Drive operational excellence.
I’ve already mentioned the benefits for your IT staff and developers of a modern HIE. But can HIEs also help make healthcare organizations more efficient and responsive everywhere?
For one, HIEs can help reduce patient visits to the ER by 13 percent, and hospital readmissions by more than 10 percent, according to recent research. Such workflow improvements can reduce patient wait times by up to 40 percent — and keep your valuable staff from getting overworked.
Reducing hospital readmissions can have an even bigger benefit. For instance, using machine learning to analyze records of congestive heart failure cases can help providers better predict which patients are at higher risk of returning with problems, and thus take actions in advance to lower the probability of readmission. Many congestive heart failure patients are on Medicare, and hospitals do not get reimbursed when Medicare patients are readmitted within 30 days of their original hospital stay. So reducing readmissions translates directly to lower costs and higher net revenues.
An AI-enabled HIE infrastructure can also analyze patients’ individual genomic data and compare it with millions of other similar cases. That can guide doctors to prescribe the most effective medicines for each patient, improving their health outcomes.
A modern HIE can also help hospitals and clinics improve the patient experience. By tracking patient visits via admission/discharge/transfer messages (ADTs) we can identify longer-than-average wait times and act on that information to make patients’ visits more efficient while utilizing hospital resources more strategically.
4. Scale with the present and future.
Managing a data center filled with legacy hardware servers is labor-intensive, creates security challenges, and ultimately creates a much higher total cost of ownership (TCO). Determined HIEs can buy or build integration engines that connect their legacy applications and storage together, but why would you do that if the costs and time required are already higher, and will continue to grow exponentially as your data grows?
By contrast, a modern cloud-native platform will be less expensive and easier for HIEs to operate, provide better performance and more capabilities, and scale with your growing data efficiently and economically.
Four Pillars for HIE Modernization
While the reasons to modernize the HIE are compelling, this transformation does not come without its challenges. Training your staff on new skills and operating procedures won’t happen overnight – not to mention gaining organizational buy-in and securing budget for the project.
Cloudticity has helped several HIEs including MiHIN and HealtHIE Nevada overcome these challenges to reap the benefits discussed above. In the process, we identified four pillars that lay the foundation for HIE modernization. To learn more about how to modernize the HIE download the whitepaper, The Once and Future Health Information Exchange. Or schedule a free consultation to learn how we can work together to turn your healthcare data exchange dreams into reality.