A Demonstration of HealtHIE Nevada’s Health Information Exchange For a Physician And United States Congressman
Deborah Huber, Executive Director, HealthInsight Nevada
Congressman Joe Heck (R, NV-3) is a physician with an extensive background working in emergency medical care at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada as well as in settings related to his work as a Colonel in the U. S. Army Reserves – serving 3 active duty terms, including a deployment to Iraq. HealthInsight Nevada staff recently met with the Congressman to discuss a variety of health care initiatives underway in his district and across the state of Nevada. Because of his background, Dr. Heck expressed a particular interest in learning more about HealtHIE Nevada, the community-based, statewide health information exchange in our State. Dr. Heck described a common emergency situation:
A patient comes to an emergency room. S/he is unknown to the physician. Today, the doctor must interview the patient (if they are conscious or able to answer questions) or the family or individuals who accompany the patient, to learn about possible allergies, their medical history, and medications the individual is taking. Of course, in this type of stressful situation, it is highly likely that the patient and/or their friends and family may not have all of this information, or may forget key pieces of information that could help the physician treat the patient. This is today’s emergency room reality. In the absence of this critical information, the physician will generally order all the blood tests, X-rays, scans, and other examinations that could help her/him make a diagnosis and effectively treat the patient. Of course, this takes time, can be painful to the patient, requires the involvement of numerous hospital staff, and may result in hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in costs.
But imagine another scenario: A patient comes to an emergency department. S/he has consented to having their personal health information shared on the HealtHIE Nevada Health Information Exchange. The physician logs on to a secure website, types in the patient’s name and date of birth, and within seconds, all of the patient’s information (insurance, allergies, current medications) shows up on the screen. In addition, all the results from blood tests, radiology exams (X-ray’s, CAT scans, MRIs), previous doctor visits, and hospital stays are visible to the physician. The physician now has the most up to date and complete medical history on this patient. This may cause him to eliminate some tests that may have recently been conducted, or include tests that a unique medical history might indicate. In either case, this scenario provides the physician with real-time information about the patient; no need to rely on a stressed family member’s recollection or to reorder unnecessary tests. This information gives the physician more accurate and real-time information so s/he can make more timely and better informed decisions at the patient’s bedside. This same kind of immediate information is beneficial to other providers that participate in the HealtHIE Nevada health Information, including primary care doctors who are seeing a patient for the first time in their office, or for a specialist physician who is seeing a patient for a specific concern. After the demonstration of the health information exchange’s capabilities, Dr. Heck expressed that this kind of information would be invaluable to emergency room physicians. He noted that as it is now, physicians do the very best they can with the information available. However, he pointed out that physicians rarely have complete information about a patient’s medical history, allergies, or medications. Consequently, s/he may have to order a number of costly tests and procedures that might be unnecessary if they were equipped with additional patient information from other health care providers (not just the patient and family.) The Congressman indicated that having the information provided by HealtHIE Nevada has the potential to improve a physician’s ability to provide appropriate, timely, and cost effective care to his/her patients.
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