One of the biggest challenges in healthcare today is the fact that patients’ health data is stored in systems that too often can’t talk to each other. This not only results in repeated tests and unnecessary healthcare costs, but it can also leave doctors without a complete picture of a patient’s health history to provide the right care at the right time.
But public and private organizations are forging a path to a more efficient future, where usable data flows freely and securely among health information systems at healthcare organizations – this is called “interoperability.” One step in the right direction is a health information exchange: secure sharing of necessary patient health data, easily accessible to doctors across health systems, independent practices and insurers in a medical service area.
To support this effort, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have partnered with other organizations to build health insurance exchanges. For example, Philadelphia-based insurer Independence Blue Cross (Independence BC) was a founding member of HealthShare Exchange (HSX), which currently includes secure data from eight million patients in the Philadelphia region.
The challenge: consolidating health records
HSX allows doctors to share and access medical records through secure messaging, giving other health care providers connected to the regional data repository the information they need when they need it to ensure patients get the care they need at the right time in the right place. The data exchange is seamless for providers, no matter their affiliation, and benefits patients, no matter their insurance carrier.
“Southeastern Pennsylvania is one of the most expensive and complex health care markets in the nation, and an effective health information exchange is essential to improve the quality of care and lower costs,” says Dr. Richard Snyder, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Independence BC, who was instrumental in helping to launch HSX.
HealthShare Exchange in action
Imagine a patient has just had a stroke. A family member calls an ambulance and the patient is taken to a nearby hospital. HSX would allow ER doctors to view the patient’s existing conditions, learn what medications the patient may be on and see recent test results –– all thanks to the patient’s shared medical data. That’s critical when a patient may not be able to remember or communicate this information. Without HSX, the doctor might have to duplicate these tests, taking away valuable time in an emergency and potentially costing the patient more out of pocket. After being discharged a few days later, the patient’s test results could be sent to a primary care doctor responsible for following up with the patient. This is a significant improvement from how things are often done today, where primary care doctors may find out a patient has been discharged weeks later or only if the patient calls for a follow up appointment.
“HSX focuses on what’s best for patients, such as helping them receive services based on more up-to-date medical information, and not having to bring their records with them for every new doctor appointment.”
– Dr. Richard Snyder, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Independence BC
The future of HealthShare Exchange
With ongoing support from Independence BC and other regional partners, HSX will continue to advance efforts to make healthcare more efficient and patient-centered.
“Health information exchange has already become an indispensable part of healthcare in the 21st Century,” says Martin Lupinetti, president of HSX. “And the benefits of bringing this information together and making it shareable and available to a variety of end users have only begun.”
Over time, data interoperability could also help doctors and insurers track the health of a whole patient population and lead the way toward making health data more easily accessible to patients.
Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.