Health Information Exchange and Health Information Technology are tools that health care providers and consumers can use to improve health care. As in any other industry, the ability to exchange information electronically comes with benefits and risks. Here are some benefits and risks for you to consider.
Available in Emergency: If you are in an accident and are unable to explain your health history to a health care provider, they can find the information about your medications, health issues, and tests and make informed decisions about your emergency care faster.
Protected in Disasters: If you are in an area affected by a disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, your health information can be stored safely in electronic form.
Improved Care/Reduced Medical Errors: Access to information about care you receive elsewhere gives your health care provider a better, more complete picture of your health. That means your health care provider can make sure the care he or she provides doesn't interact badly with other treatment you may be receiving. For example, when you can't remember what medications you are taking, health information exchange can make information about your conditions and medications available to your health care provider so that they will know the right things to do instead of doing something that might be harmful.
Tracking for Protection: When your health information is shared electronically, information about access to your record is stored electronically. This can include the identity of those who accessed your record, the date of access, the types of information accessed and the reason your record was accessed. This makes it easier to enforce laws and regulations governing access when using electronic records than it is with paper records.
Increased Safety/Reduced Duplication: Because health care providers can see what tests you have had and the results, they don't always have to repeat them. Especially with x-rays and certain lab tests, this means you are at less risk from radiation and other side effects. It also means you pay less for your health care in copayments and deductibles when tests aren't repeated.
Identity Theft: Although health information benefits from all the security measures developed in other economic sectors such as defense and finance, it bears the same risks these other sectors have experienced. Identity theft occurs with both paper files and electronic files, but a breach of electronic files may affect more records than a breach of paper files.
Errors: Health Information Exchange is a tool to improve care. Just like a paper health record, if the health care provider does not enter the correct information, that information remains in the health record until it is corrected. However, electronic information can provide checks and balances that paper health records cannot.
Hackers: As long as information technology has existed, there have been efforts to try and break into records of all kinds. Electronic health care information benefits from the security measure developed by other industries. being the last frontier of information technology, so anti-hacking security measures from other economic sectors are already used. However, hackers will continue to try to break security codes just like they do in other electronic systems.
There are Risks and Benefits associated with Health Information Technology and Health Information Exchange. Ask your health care providers if they use Health Information Technology or participate in Health Information Exchange. If you have questions, make sure that you have a conversation about how your doctor protects your health data.