When data follows the patient, care gets better and costs go down

Published February 11, 2019

Rows of patient records shelved behind a doctor’s reception desk. A hospital assistant rolling a cart full of patient charts down a corridor. Fax machines shuttling records back and forth between doctor’s offices.

The future of secure, free-flowing data
Those scenes, once familiar, are receding into the past, making way for a future where patient information flows freely and securely between patients, doctors, hospitals, health insurers and more – a concept called interoperability. What’s at stake is improving health, lowering costs and putting patients in charge of their own data.

Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are working to build a healthcare system in which:

  • Patients have the tools they need to access their health history when they want to;
  • Doctors, hospitals, health insurers and more adopt the same standards to keep patient data safe and private;
  • All healthcare information technology systems talk to each other in a common language.

A critical first step: the Health Information Exchange
A health information exchange (HIE) is a system containing patient medical records, health insurance claim information and results from major laboratories. It’s an important piece of the puzzle, bringing together a wide array of data and making it possible to securely share across doctors and hospitals to support patient health.

  • Blue Shield of California has helped to launch an independent, nonprofit statewide HIE and the health plan has been actively encouraging all providers in its network to participate in it. Other major insurers, clinics, hospitals and other organizations have joined in. It means more patients across the state can count on the system to notify their doctor when they’re admitted to the hospital and give doctors access to their health history so they receive the right care at the right time.
  • Independence Blue Cross is one of the founding members of an HIE. It has nearly eight million patients in its index and lets more than 12,000 providers communicate and share data securely. The HIE gives doctors the most up-to-date information on patient admissions, discharges, tests, procedures and prescriptions. And that in turn means doctors might not have to repeat a procedure or test. It means doctors can provide more efficient care, lowering costs for patients.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBS Michigan) gives doctors, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities a financial incentive to participate in Michigan’s statewide HIE service, which is administered by the Michigan Health Information Network (MiHIN). The statewide service enables payers and provider to transmit and receive data from across the healthcare spectrum via a single access point. To date, almost all acute care hospitals and physician organizations, as well as half of all participating nursing facilities, are connected. Providers and BCBS Michigan use the data to provide better care. For example, physicians are alerted in real-time when one of their patients has been admitted or discharged to a hospital, and care summary documents are available to assist in care transitions. The statewide service also enables BCBS and providers to more easily identify gaps in care, such as patients with diabetes who have not had recommended blood sugar testing.

Blue Shield of California, Independence Blue Cross and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies.