Hi-Tech's Impact on Health Information Exchanges

Spotlight on HIE

Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) support secure electronic sharing ofpatient health information among authorized caregivers, patients, public healthauthorities, and other providers of healthcare and payment services acrossdifferent settings and geographical areas. For example, a physician treatinga patient would be able to get authorization from the patient to access thepatient’s entire medical history including a list of current medications, knownallergies, and other vital information originally recorded in multiple systemsacross caregivers. In cases of emergency, caregivers would be able to “break theglass” to obtain secure, audited access to the medical history, in order to makethe best care decisions for the patient.At its largest scale — and with consistent standards — connecting providersto local networks and then connecting the networks to each other makes itpossible to create a nationwide health information infrastructure through whichauthorized providers can access any patient data that they need, regardless ofwhere the data reside.However, the benefits from HIE can only be as good as the patients’ willingnessto share their medical data.1 This level of data access has generated concernamong some patients and privacy advocates because it increases the risk ofunauthorized access to patient information. Without trust and consent frompatients to share their data the usefulness and sustainability of an HIE is severelyundermined, making privacy and security critical to any HIE’s success. Effortshave been delayed or stalled trying to reach consensus on these difficult issues.