Communications and Networking
Looking ahead; secure data transmission in the era of HIE with the view to enhance health care efficiency
Health information exchange (HIE) is the driving force behind the mobilization of electronic health data across hospitals, laboratories and public health agencies. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act has provided financial incentives which enable the adoption of HIE as well as help in the implementation of meaningfully useful Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in the view to facilitate significant improvements in healthcare quality and efficiency. Although HIEs provide benefits specific for individual patients when transitioning through different care providers it also has a broader potential to transform population health, by analyzing secondary data captured through EHRs, clinical systems and laboratory systems. In the midst of the large volume of data transfer, potential non-secure health data transmission could leave sensitive health information open for access and prone to malicious use if current health security policies do not update their procedures for handling protected health information (PHI) in the era of HIE. This paper proposes a model of HIE which has identified the major components in HIE through literature review, with the view to promote secure health data transmission and increased efficiency in the current US health system.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act, under a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has created a variety of incentives to promote the adoption of information technology to advance federal, state and regional health information exchange (Blumenthal, 2010, p.383). Health information exchange (HIE) is potentially, the seamless exchange of electronic health information across health care clinicians and organizations in an effort to improve health care quality and curtail mounting health care costs in the US health care system (Adjerid & Padman, 2011, p.48). Data exchanged in a digitized health system can include complete data on patient medications, allergies, chronic diagnoses, history and lab results and also hospital radiology reports. This primed information has many benefits in promoting patient health outcomes by preventing medical errors, reducing redundant duplicate testing, contributing to preventative screening measures and public health research as well as improving the documentation and coding of medical conditions (“Benefits of EHRs”, 2013). However although there are multiple benefits the HIE can provide, important questions about the security and confidentiality of our personal and sensitive health information must be raised. Unsafe and unencrypted health data transmission can leave sensitive information of our health consumers, including social security numbers, sensitive health conditions and a host of other confidential conditions open to malicious intent if not transmitted securely. Several authors have described the seemingly conflicting relationship between the exchange of health information and the legal policies set in place to safeguard data security. On one hand hospitals are being incentivized to promote health information exchange but on the other hand are being faced with strict and heavy fines when a breach of data safety occurs. In a study by Pevnick, et. al., it was found that organizations with concerns of legal persecution were the most disinclined to participate in HIE and as such legal concerns about data transmission can be viewed as an obstruction to promoting the interoperability of data transmission (Pevnick, et. al., 2012 p.608). As HIE is fairly nascent in the field of healthcare, not many studies have assessed the impact of HIE on clinical outcomes as well as analyzed the relationship between privacy legislation...
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