Imaging in the HIE

This week, more than 38,000 people made their way to Orlando, Fla., for the Health Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference. In addition to getting a reprieve from the frigid temperatures across much of the rest of the country, attendees were treated with a look at the latest innovations in health IT.

Although there were myriad topics discussed in the exhibit hall and education sessions, one of the trends I was most struck by was the rapid evolution of the health information exchange (HIE). It seemed it wasn’t that long ago that HIEs were just starting to find their footing. They always seemed necessary and inevitable, yet many questions remained regarding technological capabilities and the stability of the HIE business model.

This year, though, established HIEs are becoming more sophisticated, and the scope is growing. Rather than simply establish an HIE for a small community, the task now has shifted to exchanging information between HIEs whether they are at the local, regional or state level, leading eventually to a network of exchanges that can share information across the country.

Imaging looms large in the HIE equation, according to a presentation from representatives from Texas Health Resources (THR), a hospital network serving North Texas. Patricia Johnston, vice president of innovative technology solutions for THR, shared her organization’s experiences with implementing an HIE, including a survey of what physicians expected from the exchange.

The survey of physician documentation needs revealed that after discharge summaries, radiology reports were rated as the most important data element to include in the HIE to help in the treatment of patients.  

A separate question in the survey examined which modalities would benefit most from having the actual images included in the HIE, as opposed to just reports. Physicians responded that having access to x-ray and CT images, as well as EKGs, would be especially helpful, while most were content with the written report alone for ultrasound, echocardiograms, endoscopy, cardiac cath and nuclear medicine studies.

It will be fascinating the follow the evolution of imaging in the HIE this year and in the years to come. We’d love to hear about your experiences with integrating imaging in the HIE, so send us a message if you have a story to share.

-Evan Godt
Editor – Health Imaging