Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) can provide a wealth of patient data that leads to improved healthcare quality, safety, and patient outcomes.
Electronic HIEs reduce unnecessary testing and allow doctors and administrative staff across regional networks to have access to the same information. Now, administrative staff can have a more streamlined workflow rather than requesting that records be faxed over, and providers can be assured that they are providing an all-around better experience for their patients. The time spent filling out paperwork, providing past history, and filling out information release consent forms is significantly reduced.
Where Do Patients’ Medical Images Reside in HIEs?
When it comes to sharing reports and notes on a patient, HIEs are a great resource, but where do a patient’s medical images go? In cases of serious illness, medical imaging is often a critical part of the overall diagnosis. Only a small portion of U.S.-based HIEs have incorporated an image exchange component into their data sharing abilities, yet the sharing of diagnostic imaging holds great promise for patient outcomes and efficiency. It is estimated that out of the roughly 300 HIEs that exist today, less than 2% support medical images. The majority of data being exchanged is text-based such as demographics, prescriptions, allergies, payer information, etc. However, text-based records are only telling part of a patient’s story. The sharing of medical imaging data provides a wealth of untapped potential.
Medical imaging is extremely powerful in today’s world and impacts many patients’ lives. Whether a patient twists their ankle, experiences chronic headaches, or is completing an annual preventive screening test—medical imaging allows doctors to provide patients with information that was once carried out with invasive procedures. According to MITA, Medical Imaging Technology Alliance, “breast cancer screening reduces breast cancer mortality. If detected early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99 percent.” Medical imaging is a fundamental component to the healthcare timeline of a patient, and it is crucial that providers be able to access imaging from anywhere, anytime.
In the Imaging Technology News article, “HIE-Based Image Exchange Saves Lives and Money”, Michael S. Phipps, M.D., MHS shares how implementing an image-enabled HIE system is helping to save lives. “We have learned that we can really improve lives… When we are able to view images quickly, we can make better decisions faster.” In the world of strokes, minutes and even seconds of a person’s life can mean drastic changes. Getting images in front of a specialist can be critical and time-sensitive. “The data that we have collected so far shows that we are able to save 56 minutes on average in time to decision,” Phipps shares. Once images are in front of a stroke specialist, collaboration happens immediately with the emergency physicians to figure out the patient’s treatment and future plans for the patient’s recovery.
So, how does it work? With a cloud-based vendor like Ambra Health, a link to a patient’s medical images can be listed alongside other types of information like payer information, medical history, allergies, and more directly within the HIE’s existing portal.
Philip Tally, M.D., Neurosurgeon, part of Neurospinal Associates shares “Now, with Ambra Health image-enabling HIE Networks, I can pull images from several different locations rather than chasing around everywhere that a patient went to get their imaging done.”
The link, supported by Ambra’s open-API infrastructure, directly opens Ambra’s viewer with the patient’s images in a single-sign-on environment. Meaning, once logged in to the HIE platform, users are not required to log in to separate accounts, install separate software, or open separate applications in order to view the studies. This simplification in the workflow can go a long way to produce a more holistic health record for a patient and offer physicians the tools they need to accurately diagnose and treat their patents.