Importance of HIE in Disaster Management
(Editor's Note: This guest blog was written by Julie A. Dooling, RHIT, a director of HIM Solutions for the American Health Information Management Association.)
We live in a world where data and information are collected in many systems throughout our health care organizations, and most are often integrated into an EHR. Sharing information inside the four walls of a facility or integrated delivery system has been made easier with advances in technologies.
We also live in a world that is making great strides in health information exchange (HIE). We are sharing and exchanging more and more information outside our organizations. This dance may be orchestrated through "alike" EHR technology where facilities may utilize the same EHR or whereby HIE vendors contract with organizations to provide integration to enable sharing. It may also consist of using common transport standards encouraged by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC): Direct secure messaging or CONNECT software can facilitate exchange of the clinical summary or the continuity of care document (CCD) that is a requirement in Meaningful Use Stage 2.
Now, insert "disaster." Disasters such as Hurricane Sandy can bring chaos. Our normal routine of creating, managing, and sharing data is interrupted, even with the best planned and practiced business continuity and disaster plans.
When the health care provider's focus is taking care of the patient first, documentation and sharing of information will likely take a back seat. As the injured have been cared for and the new normal is established, information that has been previously shared with a regional health information organization (RHIO), a state designated entity (SDE), or with other organizations or providers could be extremely valuable. Originating entities may have trouble reestablishing connectivity to their network, the switch to their hot site fails, power is lost indefinitely, or patients are transferred to another facility - all situations where previously shared information could potentially show its worth.
While securing protected health information (PHI) or ensuring that information is readily accessible may not be the first thing on a healthcare worker's mind when disaster strikes, I can guarantee you that it is foremost in the minds of HIM professionals.
Working on a collaborative, interdisciplinary team to create an environment where accurate and complete data is secured, available, and readily accessible is critical for HIM professionals in their normal daily operations. The goal is to deliver the information as close to the point of care as possible, enabling the healthcare provider to focus on patient care.
Sharing accurate and complete information in a standardized manner will increase the chances that the patient's information will be available and accessible - with or without a disaster.