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82% of Patients Say Health Information Exchange Ups Care Quality

The Western New York health information exchange has gotten the seal of approval from residents in the area, a recent survey showed.

health information exchange

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Health information exchanges (HIEs) are gaining popularity among patient populations, with 81 percent of patients saying they would encourage their provider to participate in an HIE, according to a survey from HEALTHeLINK, the HIE provider for the Western New York region.

The telephone survey of about 1,000 patients in the Western New York area showed that patients approve of the use of HIEs, with 82 percent of respondents saying that provider access to electronic patient data is important for patient care.

HIEs allow disparate providers using different health IT and EHR systems to send and receive pertinent patient information. In times of medical emergency, HIEs help providers make informed care decisions using the patient’s health history, improving the quality and safety of healthcare.

Patients are recognizing those benefits, the survey showed. Eighty-seven percent of patients said the care quality offered in their area’s health system is high, and 86 percent said the care is “generally safe.” These positive perceptions toward care in the area are likely linked to the use of the HIE, HEALTHeLINK suggested.

Health IT and EHR use in general are receiving positive reactions from patients. Fifty-one percent of patients said EHRs make care safer, while only 18 percent said the tools make healthcare less safe.

Those numbers increased amongst high healthcare utilizers, those with four-year degrees, and 35 to 44-year-olds.

More patients are opting into HIEs because of those benefits. Forty-six percent of respondents said they were aware that they or a family member opted into Western New York’s HIE. Fifty-seven percent of four-year graduates and 61 percent of patient portal users said they had opted into the HIE.

Many HIEs give patients the option of participating in the system, meaning that patients have the right to withhold their information from the HIE. In those situations, providers would not be able to access patient data.

Awareness related to the use of health IT in general is also prevalent, the survey revealed. Ninety percent of patients are aware that their providers use an EHR during the care encounter, and 60 percent of patients said that their providers are not using the computer too much during care encounters. Thirty-seven percent of patients said their providers do use the computer too much during the care encounter.

Eighty-eight percent of patients said they knew that their provider could send electronic information to another provider.

These results are good news to HEALTHeLINK, according to executive director Daniel Porreca. Free flow of patient information between disparate providers is essential to improving patient care and increasing patient safety.

“We are very encouraged by these results as they demonstrate that HEALTHeLINK is working,” Porreca said in a statement. “At the same time, it is incumbent upon us to continue our efforts and to deliver value to the region’s health care system. We must also educate the community, including providers and medical staff, about HEALTHeLINK’s value to promote even greater use.”

The survey revealed that patients are becoming more involved with health data access themselves. While HIEs share patient health data between providers, other tools such as patient portals allow providers to send health data to patients.

Seventy-two percent of patients said they were aware that their provider offered patient portal access, and that awareness increased with educational attainment. Eighty-three percent of respondents with a master’s degree or PhD were aware of the patient portal.

Over half (56 percent) of patients who knew about the portal were using it, the survey revealed. Of all patients surveyed, 41 percent used the patient portal.

With the healthcare industry continuing to push for more health IT use, it is important for providers to be mindful of how patients fit into the picture. Technology cannot obscure the patient-provider relationship, and providers must assess how patients approve of health IT use.

Surveys such as this one from HEALTHeLINK give important insights into patient perceptions of health IT and highlight HIEs as integral to improving patient perceptions of care quality and safety.

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