Sharing of Healthcare Information – Issues

Today, modern medicine largely depends on sharing and communicating information for providing improved care. Exchange of information requires healthcare professionals agree on a standard of communication for verification of medical data in clinical environments. However, it remains a great challenge today.

Exchange of Health Information

Health information exchange has been growing steadily in the U.S. over the last few years thanks to the Meaningful Use program. In the earlier years, success rate of medical data exchange program used to be low. Major hurdles were shortage of funds and reluctance of healthcare providers in sharing data with competitors.  With the arrival of Meaningful Use criteria there is a marked change in the patient information sharing program among health care providers. Today there are both public and private players in the Health Information Exchange program. Currently data that shared are summary of clinical reports, laboratory test results, medical imaging reports and prescriptions.

Verizon entered the scene last year with a “share everything plan” concentrating more on technology. The concept centered around sharing of unlimited voice and text across all the devices on a customer’s account. Sharing of data using several devices including smartphones and tablets were envisaged in the concept – an ideal situation where healthcare providers too were expected to make use of it extensively. However, the program did not go well with customers and some of the analysts, citing higher costs.

All-around Support

Shared savings model unveiled by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has also closely aided the process of healthcare information sharing.  Under this new model the number of structural requirements of governance and performance measures are comparatively less while financial rewards are high. Overall, the program has a “friendly beneficiary assignment approach.” A Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) – (a Washington DC based “think tank”) report released recently recommends accelerating electronic sharing of information across the multiple settings where patients receive care to promote better coordination and higher quality health care. “Exchange of information between individuals and organizations delivering and supporting care is a central to high-quality, patient-centered and cost effective care,” says the BPC report. The report stresses on accelerated interoperability and electronic information sharing, improved accuracy of patient matching, updated laws to advance information sharing and improved clarity of privacy and security laws. The report finds that healthcare IT and electronic health information sharing play a critical role in all these aspects.

It appears that among private and public and health information exchanges, the former grew more than those exchanges in the public, says Paul Cerrato healthcare editor of the Informationweek in a recent article citing a Chilmark Research Report. The report attributes this to “the Meaningful Use criteria that require interoperability between systems when patients move from one place to the other and the changes in reimbursement methods that require greater care coordination,” he further adds.

Looking Ahead

Improving care and controlling costs have been major challenges for governments all over the world for several years. Reimbursement policy is a big driver for innovations to take place and allowing clinicians to experiment with the new delivery models is therefore important.  The main issue then is learning from past experience.

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