Health information exchanges have a unique role in the health care system by securely sharing clinical information across different providers, hospitals, public health departments and the entire health care community. Having a comprehensive clinical history improves patient outcomes and results in cost savings, especially when most patients receive care from multiple providers. The value of having access to current clinical information where it is needed, when it’s needed has never been more relevant as it has been than during the pandemic.
As Western New York’s HIE, HEALTHeLINK has and continues to play an important role within our local health care system — enabling treating providers to securely obtain health information for their patients, with consent, to deliver efficient and effective continuity of care.
Since the start of the pandemic, HEALTHeLINK has been working closely with local county and New York State health departments, along with participating providers to offer HIE services which support epidemiology, surveillance, and other community response efforts. For instance, HEALTHeLINK has been providing alert notifications for participating physicians for their patients who had a COVID-19 test conducted and/or been admitted to the hospital to help inform the providers’ care and treatment. Over the past year, more than eight million COVID-related alert notifications have been delivered to HEALTHeLINK participants.
As vaccination rollout continues, HEALTHeLINK is taking the next step in its COVID-19 response efforts by developing and implementing technologies focused on patient immunizations. For example, participating providers now have access, with patient consent, to COVID-19 vaccination data via HEALTHeLINK. This data will enable providers and public health partners to effectively track vaccination progress, measure vaccination outcomes and identify the vaccine rates in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in support of the WNY Regional Vaccine Hub.
Having this data available will also help to identify and prioritize those most at risk who have not yet received the vaccine or gone for their second dose when needed. HEALTHeLINK is assisting in providing ongoing monitoring of patients who have received the COVID-19 vaccination to identify those who may experience possible adverse reactions or treating reinfection. Alert notifications related to patients’ immunization status and other monitoring criteria will be securely delivered to treating providers.
While an HIE’s role is elevated during times of crisis, HEALTHeLINK is working every day to support the entire health care community. From delivery of patient data directly into their doctors’ electronic health record to alert notifications for hospitalizations and discharges, and health record lookup, whether accessing for in-person or telehealth patient visits, even more providers and practices are utilizing HEALTHeLINK for improved, more efficient coordination of care.
For providers who are still not actively participating, there’s never been a better time to experience the proven benefit of HIE when it comes to patient care.
Dan Porreca is executive director of HEALTHeLINK, the health information exchange for the eight counties of Western New York.