TALLAHASSEE – If Florida is forced to contend with a massive outbreak of COVID-19, quickly accessing patient records from all sources becomes crucial. That seamless access has been hampered by the territorial nature of electronic health record (EHR) solutions, but a health information exchange system in place in Tallahassee and Bradenton could hold the key by building bridges between EHRs.
The system also helps hospitals comply with a new federal rule requiring that they notify patients' doctors upon admission for coronavirus disease treatment.
Pioneered by a medical doctor, a technology entrepreneur, and a self-described health care policy wonk, Tallahassee-based HIE Networks allows patient records from any source to be uploaded and aggregated into a secure, patient-specific portal, where medical teams and patients can access them in real time – across geographies and different types of EHR systems.
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"EHR systems are highly proprietary, so by design they don't communicate easily with each other," said Dan Kaelin, MD, HIE Networks' co-founder and Chief Medical Officer. "That means there's no way to quickly collect and view patient information across health plans, hospitals, walk-in clinics, county public health departments, and other providers – and that's a problem for health care treatment."
HIE Networks tackled that problem by building a bridge between all data sources. The HIE Networks can even use physicians' existing antiquated faxing resources to integrate the information into the cloud-based platform. The system has been tried and proven in Tallahassee and Bradenton, where many doctors can access a patient's comprehensive medical records across the communities.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last week announced new electronic notification procedures requiring hospitals to send real-time electronic notifications to each of a new patient's relevant doctors. This presents a tremendous challenge for hospitals, which may have a difficult time identifying all of a patient's doctors and determining how to reach them as the patient is admitted, discharged, or transferred. HIE Networks' health information exchange system is one of the few systems providing that kind of fast and affordable interoperability.
The new federal rule is designed to drive patient access and sharing of their electronic health information, allowing the patients the ability to coordinate their own health care. However, the rule has taken on new urgency from COVID-19, presenting an additional imperative for hospitals as they address the unique and daunting challenges of potential coronavirus cases.