How HIEs Further Interoperability

Virtually anyone who has been in contact with a healthcare provider has experienced the need for interoperability. Providers may be linked within a healthcare system through a shared EHR, but if the patient steps outside that system, they must start filling out medical history forms again.

Those within the trenches of providing care have an even deeper understanding of the need for – and absence of – interoperability. After all, the use of fax machines is still a commonplace means of information exchange within the healthcare industry!

HIEs play an important role in standardizing information and facilitating exchange between healthcare organizations. According to HIMSS, examples of data exchange supported by HIEs include:

  • Clinical results
  • Clinical information, notes and documentation (transcription and care summary notes, ED notes, discharge summaries, referrals, consultations, etc.)
  • Medication history
  • Immunizations, syndromic surveillance and public health data
  • Electronic prescribing and refill information
  • EMT/1st responder notes


To join or not to join – that is the question

The widespread adoption of electronic medical records (approximately 85% of hospitals and physicians in 2015) has increased the urgency of sending and receiving information electronically. The reasons to join an HIE are numerous, but generally focus on:

  1. Improve quality of care through real-time access to patient data
  2. Reduce costs by eliminating duplicate lab tests and imaging
  3. Lay the groundwork to participate in ACOs, population health and other value-based care initiatives


Where to begin

You probably have multiple options for joining an HIE. These options could include:

  • Vendor integration – While you likely can’t get a full HIE connection with query capabilities, your EHR may have Direct Secure Message integrated into the software. That means you can send HIPAA-compliant email messages without leaving your EHR.
  • Local network – A hospital or health system may offer a way to connect with other providers across the continuity of care in your geographical area. Check with local hospitals where you have an affiliation.
  • Regional HIE – There may be a regional HIE in your area that offers a high level of support plus the ability to connect to other providers in the region and state.
  • Statewide HIE – Many states have a state-designated entity (SDE) that provides some or all of the data exchange services listed above. Your best bet might be to search for your state name plus HIE. If your statewide HIE doesn’t serve individual practices, they can put you in touch with the networks in your area that can provide you with connection services.


With the increased emphasis on interoperability, HIEs have never been more important. The abundance of HIEs available has made joining one easier than ever. Having the proper HIEs in place can help your practice or hospital increase quality of care resulting in a greater bottom line. If you have questions about the benefits of HIEs, contact Azalea Health for more information.


View our next HIE blog focusing on the regulatory aspects of HIEs via TEFCA >>