The power and speed of electronic health records
It wasn’t long ago that sharing a patient’s medical information between healthcare providers was a manual process that could take days to complete.
If a patient went to see a specialist, for example, their primary care physician would have to copy their medical records and either mail or fax them to the specialist. Electronic health records (EHR) and health information exchanges (HIE) now make it possible for a hospital, physician or other healthcare provider to get a patient’s medical records in just seconds. That speed of access can help improve medical care and reduce the need to duplicate lab tests, imaging, and other tests.
It is possible because health information exchanges (HIE) such as Hixny, assemble medical data from many sources and create a single, comprehensive record of a patient’s medical care. They can then share that information with healthcare providers throughout the region.
There are currently two ways in which patient data is electronically shared between healthcare providers. They are:
- Push, also known as point-to-point data acquisition.
- Pull, or multisource data acquisition.
While some HIEs focus on just one of these methods, others use both forms of data acquisition to make it easier for healthcare providers to quickly get the information they need. That lets hospitals, physicians, and other clinicians provide better medical care for their patients.
Push is Like Sending a Fax
The push form of sharing medical records is very similar to the way records used to be shared, though it is done electronically and much more quickly. Push sharing, called point-to-point or transactional exchanges, means that a patient’s health information is automatically sent electronically from one provider to another.
Here’s how it works. Imagine you are an endocrinologist or another type of specialist, and you ordered a test on a patient you’re treating. An example of push is when your primary care physician (PCP) is copied on patient’s lab result. Hixny in effect, pushes it right into the PCP’s system when the lab result is finalized.
Pull Method Builds a Complete History
While some HIEs focus exclusively on the push form of data acquisition, other HIEs use the pull method. The pull method lets the HIE assemble data from multiple sources into a complete record of a patient’s medical history. Here is how the pull method differs from push:
- In the push method, a lab, radiology result, or a notification that Hixny created based on a hospital event, is pushed to the provider.
- With the pull method, the hospital or physician who needs a patient’s healthcare information sends a request, or query, to an HIE. The HIE responds by sending back a comprehensive medical history.
Because the pull method combines data from many sources into a complete medical history, providers can get a compete record of a patient’s care with a single request. Providers must have the patient’s consent before they can request their medical records.
Here’s an example of how the pull method works. Imagine you are a patient and have had persistent pain in your shoulder. You’ve seen your primary care physician several times, and he has tried different treatment options. None has provided more than temporary relief, so he refers you to an orthopedist at another organization, Dr. Rebecca Collins, MD.
Dr. Collins has viewed your medical history before you arrive at your appointment—and because you’ve already provided consent at this organization, she’s able to review these records through the HIE in advance. She already knows the treatments you’ve tried without success. She has looked at previous scans you’ve had on your shoulder.
After a brief examination that confirms what she suspected after reviewing your records, Dr. Collins gives you a prescription for an anti-inflammatory drug that will help eliminate your pain. Because she is now familiar with your medical history, she chooses a drug that has no record of dangerous interactions with any of the medications you are already taking. Now your primary care physician can see the treatment Dr. Collins has prescribed and is aware of the actions being taken to cure you.
The Right Data at the Right Time
When health information exchanges, such as Hixny, use the pull method to aggregate patient data into a single, complete medical record, they are helping to ensure that vital information can get to providers who need it when they need it. So, if a patient goes to an emergency room, clinicians there can quickly get that patient’s medical history without delay.
In addition, HIEs can provide real-time delivery of lab results, radiology reports and treatment summaries to anyone involved in the patient’s medical care. That can help with consultations and give clinicians the information they need to provide higher quality care in less time than if they had to wait for critical data or conduct unnecessary tests.