What Is a Health Information Exchange?

A health information exchange, also known as an HIE, is set up as a way for patients and their health care providers to digitally share and access a patient’s medical information, according to HealthIT.gov. The advantage of such a system is that it increases the overall quality, speed, safety and cost of health care.

Before HIE, medical records were mostly kept on paper in a patient’s home or in a medical office, notes HealthIT.gov. Instead of sharing patient medical information electronically, it was faxed, mailed or hand delivered by the patient. Rather than acting as a replacement to provider-patient contact, HIE instead acts as a supplement and a way to improve a patient’s records. For instance, HIE standardizes sharing patient information and makes it easier to include in the recipient’s Electronic Health Record. This makes it easier for health care providers to schedule follow-up appointments for at-risk patients, such as those with high blood pressure or diabetes.

In addition to allowing medical care providers to make more informed decisions regarding patient care, HIE allows for better medical diagnoses, fewer re-admissions, less duplicate testing and fewer medication errors, according to HealthIT.gov. As of 2015, the three different types of HIE include directed exchange, query-based exchange and consumer mediated exchange.