Healthcare providers throughout Washington must resort to faxing patient health records after the region’s HIE ceased operations.
The Medical Information Network-North Sound health information exchange in Skagit County has been shut down, leaving healthcare providers with no way to digitally exchange patient information.
Skagit Valley Hospital and Island Hospital now must fax patient health records between care facilities, according to GoSkagit.com.
The now-closed HIE was established in 2008 and funded by Skagit Valley Hospital, Island Hospital, and United General Hospital in Skagit County. The hospitals are currently working to finalize an agreement with their new HIE partner, Reliance eHealth Collaborative.
United General Hospital cut ties with the HIE in 2010. Skagit Valley and Island Hospital have been the primary sources of financial support for the HIE since United’s departure, with about 60 percent of the exchange’s funding coming from the two hospitals.
Until plans are finalized, communication between patients and their healthcare providers may be slower and less efficient.
“They will have to resort to faxing,” Murray Laidley told GoSkagit.com.
The HIE was forced to close because the hospitals were no longer financially able to provide the necessary funding, according to Laidley.
“The idea is awesome, and it works,” said Island Hospital CEO Vince Oliver. “It just became too expensive.”
The HIE functioned as a secure health data repository providers and hospital staff used to electronically access and exchange patent EHRs.
“Faxes didn’t have to be sent,” said Oliver. “Misplaced charts wouldn’t go all over the place.”
The database reduced the need for duplicate testing and helped to cut costs for patients and healthcare organizations. While the hospitals saved money on duplicate testing, the cost of supporting the HIE was high. Island Hospital spent about $400,000 per year funding the network, Oliver said.
Linking up with the Reliance eHealth Collaborative will be significantly less expensive. Island Hospital executives expect participating in the HIE will cost less than $25,000 per year for the same service.
Island Hospital is expected to finalize negotiations with Reliance in the coming days or weeks.
Skagit has been using an Epic EHR system since 2015, while Island Hospital uses a MEDITECH system. While Epic has the ability to integrate with outside hospitals and health systems, clinicians in Skagit County are currently unable to access or exchange patient EHRs from external sources.
Until hospitals in the county secure a connection to Reliance, providers must exchange patient information via fax and communicate through phone calls.
HIE adoption can help healthcare organizations increase their rates of health data exchange and succeed in federal incentive programs such as the CMS Promoting Interoperability program.
“Health data is most effective where you have connectivity, meaning that you have all of the information on a patient available in near-real time,” Manifest MedEx Managing Director Hiliary Critchley told EHRIntelligence.com in a 2018 interview.
“And it’s not just with hospitals, but also the community clinics and labs,” she added.
MedEx connects hospitals and health systems throughout California and serves as a centralized data source for facilities that need access to data from several different providers.
“It makes sense to centralize into a network that can be accessed and leveraged on an as-needed basis as patients make their way through the healthcare system,” Critchley said.
Connecting to an HIE can also give healthcare providers access to admission, discharge, and transfer notifications, which can be critical for streamlining transitions of care and improving care coordination.
ADT notifications help to reduce hospital readmissions, cut hospital costs, and help some hospitals improve their performance in CMS quality programs.
Date: April 15, 2019