Helping HIEs Accelerate Interoperability

eHealth Technologies blog: Gary Larson, Executive Vice President & General Manager, HIE Solutions, eHealth Technologies

We are counting down to the last few days before one of the largest gatherings of health information exchanges (HIE) and their industry partners—the 2019 Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) Annual Conference.  This preparation always has me looking forward to meeting with leaders in the field and taking time to reflect on the future of healthcare.

A noticeable theme has emerged in recent years—an ongoing discussion of interoperability. But what does interoperability really mean? And why does it matter?

In our instant access world, we’ve become accustomed to getting things immediately. From Instacart and InstaPot, to instant car insurance and instant bill paying—our digital world helps us get what we want when we want it.

So why is it that accessing our medical images is still so difficult? Why do we still rely on phone calls and CDs that can delay care by weeks, even when we need them immediately?

Interoperability in healthcare—true interoperability­allows disparate systems to exchange and use information so that clinicians can make faster, more informed decisions leading to greater value and better outcomes for patients. This is, to a great extent, why HIEs exist. And this is also what drives our mission at eHealth Technologies.

Patients today are typically seen by providers and specialists across multiple locations because of personal preferences, insurance requirements, or scarce clinical resources. This can leave them traveling many miles, and even states away for specialized procedures, regular appointments or second opinions, and further exacerbates our pursuit of interoperability.

Accessing the information needed at the point of care, in a concise and relevant format, is both cumbersome and time-consuming for these disparate care providers; yet critical if we ever hope to achieve our interoperability goals. While HIEs have made great strides in addressing these needs for a significant portion of patient records, sharing medical images is viewed as particularly difficult.

For patients diagnosed with cancer, stroke or other acute medical problems, their medical image history is particularly vital, and time is of the essence. These patients don’t have the days and even weeks it can take to locate their prior medical images and make them available within a local system at their current point of care. Hospitals and specialty clinics increasingly cannot afford the time and resources required to make this happen; and the patients themselves are too sick or unfamiliar with the process to do it on their own.

This is why at eHealth Technologies we have chosen to focus on helping HIEs and clinical information networks to share medical images. We firmly believe we can “move the needle” in the pursuit of an interoperable healthcare system where staff have easy-access to all the information they need to diagnose and develop the best treatment plans – including the images that have been heretofore so difficult to access. Our eHealth Connect® Image Exchange solution:

  • Unburdens clinicians and staff from spending time tracking down prior, relevant medical images for patients.
  • Enables care providers that depend on imaging to make faster, more informed decisions because they have “one-click” access to all diagnostic quality medical images from every connected source.
  • Simultaneously reduces the need for unnecessary repeated imaging procedures that not only add to the overall cost of care in a big way, but also expose patients to large amounts of unnecessary radiation.
  • Frees up staff time to focus more directly on patient care rather than the logistics of locating, retrieving and organizing medical records and images.

eHealth Technologies has integrated medical images from hundreds of hospitals and imaging centers with local, regional and statewide HIEs across the US; and our mission is just beginning. There is still a long way to go for our nation’s healthcare delivery system to be truly interoperable, but we are privileged to have the opportunity be play a vital role in this critically-important endeavor.