Why nursing homes should embrace HIEs

Inefficient and unclear communication between hospitals and nursing homes can complicate care, so researchers are looking to health information exchanges to change that, according to research published at Applied Clinical Informatics.

Researchers from the University of Missouri undertook a project--using a $14.8 million grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services--aimed at reducing avoidable re-hospitalizations among nursing home residents, according to an announcement.

In assessing the HIE readiness of 16 nursing homes, they found that while many used electronic record-keeping internally to support patient care tasks most of the technology was not used to communicate externally, such as with hospitals or off-site pharmacies. In additon, tracking patients' medications or scheduling appointments often was done using separate systems.

The researchers identified areas most integral to patient care and how technology can facilitate those tasks. Using diagrams, the researchers developed visual representations of the communication flow and how technology could streamline and integrate existing processes.

In the next phase of the project, the researchers will evaluate whether HIE implementation improves communication about resident care and how clinicians and other staff feel about integrating the HIE into their workflow.

The information exchnages are continuing to evolve, as have providers' needs regarding them, according to a new report from NORC at the University of Chicago researchers for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. Researchers found that providers' HIE needs have moved beyond simply connecting disparate electronic health record systems and the need to meet Meaningful Use requirements into more of a desire for information at the point of care to improve healthcare delivery.

In addition, statewide health information exchanges in four states--Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland and Oklahoma--have used  "challenge grants" from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to develop ways of connecting long-term and post-acute-care providers online with hospitals, physicians and other providers.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract
- read the announcement