A New Use Case For HIEs

The Southeast Regional HIT-HIE Collaboration project recently released a report focused on exchanging patient health information in the event of a disaster. I thought this was a unique application to the capabilities of Health Information Exchanges (HIEs).

HIEs exist to share patient health information among providers, both within communities and across communities. A normal target scenario of this patient sharing is for continuity of care as a patient traverses through an episode of care within a given community. HIEs can also be useful in providing timely patient health information in an emergency care scenario. But the Southeast Regional HIT-HIE Collaboration project has extended the use-case scenarios for HIEs.

The collaboration consists of states on the southeast coast which are prime targets for hurricane destruction. Because of this, these states combined efforts to develop a way to be better prepared for situations involving a natural disaster. The solution – utilize the infrastructure of HIEs to ensure that patients being evacuated can continue to receive the care they need with all of their patient health information available no matter where they are transferred.

Hospitals today have disaster recovery backups of their IT infrastructure. But in the event of a natural disaster, how does the transfer facility get access to the patient health information located in the backup systems of the evacuated provider? The answer is to have this patient health information shared among neighboring states using the statewide HIE infrastructures. When a hurricane is approaching, the hospitals can proactively share the patient health information with neighboring state HIEs so that when patients are evacuated their information is readily available at the new facility. This could be as simple as uploading a CCD for all patients to the neighboring HIEs.

As HIEs evolve, we will likely continue to see new use-case scenarios emerge for the sharing of patient health information. It is refreshing to hear about HIEs providing solutions for patients.