Being able to read a doctor’s handwriting may no longer be a challenge with electronic data, but understanding the terms that doctor’s use and agreeing to terms that all doctors use has become a new challenge.
The Hawai‘i Health Information Exchange is preparing to take patient data exchange to a new level of sophistication. It is investing in new tools and processes to improve the quality of patient data and standardizing the terms to benefit all providers.
For years, the Hawai‘i Health Information Exchange successfully collected patient data from numerous healthcare providers, but these providers use different terms to document their services to their patients. So even when data can be exchanged, providers may not be certain how to interpret the data.
“It’s a linguistic challenge,” said Ben Tutor, HHIE’s manager of information technology. “Many organizations may be involved with healthcare, but they don’t speak the same language. They may document an encounter or visit or procedure in different ways. Normalizing that data across the community is critical so that one organization can understand another organization’s notations.
Fortunately, the Hawai‘i Health Information has partners on the mainland, including other health information exchanges, to help guide the process, Tutor added. HHIE also plans to use established national and state standards as references to advance the process.
A Phased Approach
Standardizing patient data and improving data quality will not happen overnight. It is a major undertaking that will be phased in over time.
As one of first steps toward standardization, Tutor is convening a steering committee composed of representatives from different healthcare organizations, who will look at data standards first within their own organizations. This is a vital step to improving care since a patient may see different providers using different electronic health record systems.
The steering committee is also composed of privacy and compliance officers to make sure that patient privacy safeguards and appropriate data use are addressed as part of the standardization process.
Standardized Database Opens Door to New Users and New Uses
A database of standardized patient information will be even more useful for organizations such as the Hawai‘i Department of Health, Hawai‘i Department of Human Services (Med-QUEST Division), and the University of Hawai‘i, as well as new users. This will help to improve patient care, health outcomes, and the bottom line of providers and health plans by eliminating redundant or unnecessary procedures.
Standardized data will also allow the Hawai‘i Health Information Exchange to offer new, advanced services and analytics to better serve healthcare providers throughout the state.