Focus on patients need when choosing an HIE strategy for 'meaningful use'

In what may as well be part of "Meaningful Use 101" curriculum for physicians, American Medical News this week examines a key but potentially problematic element of the federal standards required to earn Medicare or Medicaid bonus payments for EMR usage: health information exchange.

Certification of EMRs should remove one hurdle toward successful HIE, namely finding a product capable of securely transferring patient data among other healthcare providers, payers, laboratories, pharmacies and the like. Though HHS hadn't authorized any certification bodies until just last week, vendors have been preparing for months to be tested according to federal criteria, and many EMR suppliers have been offering a "guarantee" that their products will be adequate to achieve "meaningful use" of health IT.

As for HIE, many hospitals and health systems have created HIEs in recent years. Some areas of the country have set up formal regional health information organizations as well, Business structures vary, as do types of data exchanged. Which one--or ones--to choose should depend on a practice's individual needs, according to Greg DeBor, a healthcare specialist with consulting firm Computer Sciences Corp.

If your practice mostly refers patients to one particular hospital, concentrate on moving patient information between the practice and that hospital, DeBor tells AMNews. "If, on the other hand, you practice across different entities or communities or across state lines, you have to consider either which HIE, or how many HIEs, you might need to participate in, in order to get the benefit that those HIEs will deliver in terms of supporting your workflow," DeBor says.

"The whole point of these health information exchanges is to provide each of the clinicians, both the physician who is treating the patient and the physician who previously treated the patient, with the best up-to-date information possible," adds Dr. Barry Chaiken, chief medical officer of Lexington, Mass.-based software vendor Imprivata and current board chairman of HIMSS.

For more advice:
- check out this American Medical News feature

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