Quality of care may drive health information exchange

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A panel discussion during the AHIMA convention allowed experts to offer their insights and predictions on health information exchange (HIE) and privacy, consumer involvement and the HIM role in the process. The panelists were: Mark Frisse, MD, MBA, MsC, director of regional initiatives at the Vanderbilt Center for Better Health; Scott Wallace, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Health Information Technology; Emily Stewart, policy analyst at the Health Privacy Project; and Carol Diamond, MD, MPH, managing director of the Markle Foundation.

The group said that quality of care must be the reason behind HIE. Construction of a nationwide network will require policies that help patients understand its benefits," Wallace said. The system will have to be flexible and not rely on a one-size-fits-all approach. Wallace said that IT product certification developed by the Certification Commission on Healthcare Information Technology will help by instituting a process that defines a product, identified applicable standards, and then develop a mechanism to test how the product meets those standards. It's important to have realistic expectations, though. "You're not going to have one ultimate system that will never be replaced," he said. Quality should be considered when weighing the costs of investment. Wallace cautioned that the industry should not expect to see significant economic return on IT investments right away. "The expectations of IT are ridiculous, and there is no way people are going to meet them. You can't expect 40 percent ROI in year one."

The best returns may be seen in terms of efficiency rather than economy. "I'd say the greatest threat to healthcare in the last decade is unnecessary complexity…we have had a war of mutually assured destruction between camps adding layer upon layer of complexity. I hope we change to a simpler, more efficient system," Frisse said.