Patient documentation is often scattered across healthcare systems: a diagnosis here, a newly prescribed medication there, and test results in three different places. Unfortunately, electronic medical records (EMR) often don’t transfer efficiently across healthcare entities—if they transfer at all. This inability to easily share important data can cause healthcare information silos.
It may sound like just another buzzword, but silos area serious threat to patient care. If you can’t find the right medical information needed to treat a patient, you may be stuck wondering: where is all the data, and why can’t I access it?
Silos are especially dangerous for patients in long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC). These patients require the highest acuity of care, as they are often transferred toLTPAC facilities to continue recovering from acute hospital stays. They frequently have challenging medical conditions and comorbidities that require them to see multiple clinicians.
In this critical environment, it’s essential to have seamless systems in place to facilitate health information exchange (HIE)between healthcare professionals and healthcare systems. The good news is that automated EHR workflows can make HIE seamless and efficient for LTPAC clinicians.
What is HIE?
HIE makes it simple for clinicians and other healthcare professionals to access a patient’s medical information. When using an efficient data exchange system, a clinician sends or receives records across different medical facilities, such as laboratories, pharmacies, or specialists.
Health information exchange can include electronic medical information such as:
- Patient demographics
- Medical problems
- Social/family histories
- Laboratory test results
- Discharge and transfer summaries
With today’s digital HIE efforts, we have eliminated the need for information exchange via fax and telephone and replaced them with secure networks to share patient data.
What are the advantages of HIE?
HIE provides significant advantages for clinicians and patients. These benefits include:
●Decreasing the risk of medication errors and misdiagnoses
●Providing clinicians with more comprehensive medical information from hospitals and specialists
●Reducing the likelihood that patients will undergo duplicate testing
●Saving patients time when providing medical history to new clinicians
Together, these benefits mean that HIE enables patients to receive a higher quality of care.
Streamlined HIE processes are especially beneficial inLTPAC settings. Sharing patient information digitally makes it much easier fora large team of healthcare professionals to work together to provide care as patients transfer between hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities.
Types of data exchange in LTPAC
While electronic health information exchange offers clear benefits for all healthcare professionals, this process is especially helpful for LTPAC practitioners. In LTPAC settings, there are four main types of data that clinicians exchange with other healthcare entities:
1. Discharge data from an acute setting
More patients than ever are traveling through LTPAC facilities as awareness of the benefits of this care grows. Many patients transfer to LTPAC environments after receiving treatment from acute settings like hospitals.
For instance, one study found that 61.2% of Medicare beneficiaries were discharged to skilled nursing facilities following a hospital stay. These patients experienced lower rates of hospital readmissions at 30 days.
When treating patients who have been discharged from an acute setting, LTPAC clinicians must gather relevant established data. HIE between acute and LTPAC facilities can significantly reduce documentation time by allowing clinicians to access urgently needed medical information, such as allergies, medications, and post surgical treatment plans.
2. Third-party data
Treating patients with chronic and serious illnesses is a team effort that usually requires collaboration between LTPAC clinicians, acute settings, and third-party sources. For instance, pharmacists can provide medication reconciliation when patients transfer from hospitals to LTPAC settings. This type of data exchange decreases the risk of medication errors and helps reduce costs.
Clinicians can also request EHRs from laboratories, radiologists, and other third parties to ensure that they have all of the information needed to provide proper patient care. Automated EHR workflows can make this process easier by automatically sending lab reports or other medical information to LTPAC facilities.
3. Closed loop data
After leaving the LTPAC world, patients typically return to their primary care practitioners for additional treatment. To ensure that patients continue to receive proper care, LTPAC professionals should keep these primary care practitioners in the loop by sharing essential EHRs and treatment plans. Without this exchange of data, clinicians could be left in the dark about how to care for their patients.
By exchanging data quickly and seamlessly, LTPAC clinicians empower these colleagues to continue guiding their patients down a path toward lifelong health.
4. Update data for acute settings
LTPAC clinicians should also share patient data back with acute settings. HIE can help professionals work together across healthcare entities to manage, monitor, and predict readmissions.
Data exchanges across acute and post-acute environments help protect healthcare facilities and patients alike. Acute settings may receive hefty penalties for high rates of patient readmissions. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will reduce payments to hospitals if a Medicare patient has an unplanned readmission within 30 days of discharge. Too many readmissions in a year can add up to a substantial fine for hospitals.
By improving communications between acute and LTPAC clinicians, electronic HIEs can reduce the likelihood that patients will need to be readmitted, saving hospitals and patients money.
Exchanging HIE with ChartPath
HIE offers many clear benefits for LTPAC clinicians and patients. Electronic data exchanges close the loop between healthcare entities, ensuring that medical information travels seamlessly between acute care settings, LTPAC facilities, pharmacies, and more. This easy transfer of EHRs allows clinicians to provide accurate and timely care to the patients who need it most.
If you don’t already have a solid EHR management system in place, however, the prospect of sharing data with other healthcare professionals can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to make a system from scratch.
Current systems use a combination of emails, faxing, and phone calls. However, these tools take time and resources. ChartPath’s EHR software makes it simple to create EMR workflows that share data between patients, platforms, and practitioners. With this tool, you can electronically exchange medical information with multiple healthcare entities and ensure that every member of your patients' healthcare team has easy access to the records they need to provide stellar care.
ChartPath’s automated workflows also streamline tedious tasks like managing billing and sending electronic prescriptions. By letting the software handle these jobs for you, you will have even more time to dedicate to your patients. To learn about how ChartPath can automate your workflow and make HIE a snap, schedule a free demo with our EHR experts today.