Frequently Asked Questions

The RGV HIE provides the technical and legal infrastructure to support Health Information Exchange by providing services and online tools to enhance care coordination, interoperability, and data aggregation among participants. Services to be provided include the following:

2. What is a health information exchange (HIE)?

Health information exchange (HIE) is defined as the electronic movement of health-related information among health care organizations according to nationally recognized standards and conducted in a manner that protects the confidentiality, privacy, and security of the information. HIE may also refer to the electronic infrastructure that enables health care providers to access and share a patient’s medical information electronically to enhance coordination of patient care among providers, improve the quality and efficiency of care that a patient receives, improve patient safety, reduce medical errors and duplicate services. HIE is also useful in enhancing public health and disease detection and monitoring.

4. Why are HIEs valuable?

An HIE allows two or more health care providers involved in providing care to a patient to quickly, securely, and accurately share information. Because each authorized provider can readily see a patient’s complete electronic health record (EHR), the need for duplicate medical tests is reduced, efficiency is improved, and patients receive higher quality care.

Authorized medical professionals can quickly and easily retrieve a patient’s treatment record, lab results, prescription lists and other information even if those records are stored in a distant location. Currently, physicians and their staff are spending much of their time “chasing” paperwork and results, which means they have less time to spend with patients.

HIE enhances accuracy, appropriateness and efficiency in patient care.

Unlike paper records, they are not bulky, they don’t take up costly space and they don’t require labor-intensive methods to maintain, retrieve and file. EHRs are also stored in a standard way, so information is where the provider expects it to be, and there is no need to decipher handwritten notes.

6. How secure are HIE’s?

HIEs must comply with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), and other state and federal laws, so security must be built into the system. Unlike paper records, electronic records can be encrypted – using technology that makes them unreadable to anyone other than an authorized user – and security access parameters are set so that only authorized individuals can view them.

Furthermore, any time a person accesses an electronic record, the information is tracked and audited. When paper records are viewed by people, it is very difficult to track who saw the information and whether it was authorized.

1. What is the Rio Grande Valley Health Information Exchange?

In May 26, 2011 an agreement was entered into by and between the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Rio Grande Valley Health Information Exchange (RGV HIE), a non profit information exchange created to serve an agreed geographic area.

The Rio Grande Valley Health Information Exchange (RGV HIE), intends to provide a county-level infrastructure solution that connects information between participating health care organizations and providers in extreme South Texas by integrating disparate systems and enabling the exchange and use of critical patient information for making care related decisions at the point of care in an encrypted format. From Brownsville to Laredo, patients will have the ability to provide medical information to those who need it most, just when they need it.

2. What is a health information exchange (HIE)?

Health information exchange (HIE) is defined as the electronic movement of health-related information among health care organizations according to nationally recognized standards and conducted in a manner that protects the confidentiality, privacy, and security of the information. HIE may also refer to the electronic infrastructure that enables health care providers to access and share a patient’s medical information electronically to enhance coordination of patient care among providers, improve the quality and efficiency of care that a patient receives, improve patient safety, reduce medical errors and duplicate services. HIE is also useful in enhancing public health and disease detection and monitoring.

3. What are the benefits of a Health Information Exchange (HIE)?

HIE Saves Time:
With HIE, physicians and other qualified health professionals will have patient information compiled from across systems quickly. This means less time searching, calling and faxing for information. This reduces treatment delays for patients and allows health care providers to spend more time with patients.

HIE Improves Care:
With consistent information, physicians and other providers will get results and reports in one compiled format. Additionally, the patient’s information will be more complete. This reduces errors and improves treatment recommendations.

HIE Reduces Cost:
With more streamlined and comprehensive information, there is less chance for mistakes and ordering or duplicate tests. This reduces patients’ out-of-pocket expenses for unnecessary medications, radiology tests, lab tests and hospitalizations.

HIE Enhances Privacy:
With enhanced security protections above what is possible with paper records, and more controlled access to patient health information, patient privacy is better protected.

4. Why are HIEs valuable?

An HIE allows two or more health care providers involved in providing care to a patient to quickly, securely, and accurately share information. Because each authorized provider can readily see a patient’s complete electronic health record (EHR), the need for duplicate medical tests is reduced, efficiency is improved, and patients receive higher quality care.

Authorized medical professionals can quickly and easily retrieve a patient’s treatment record, lab results, prescription lists and other information even if those records are stored in a distant location. Currently, physicians and their staff are spending much of their time “chasing” paperwork and results, which means they have less time to spend with patients.

HIE enhances accuracy, appropriateness and efficiency in patient care.

Unlike paper records, they are not bulky, they don’t take up costly space and they don’t require labor-intensive methods to maintain, retrieve and file. EHRs are also stored in a standard way, so information is where the provider expects it to be, and there is no need to decipher handwritten notes.

5. Are HIE helpful in times of emergency or in a disaster?

Yes. HIEs provide easier access in times of emergency and can be backed-up easily and cost effectively, thus avoiding loss of critical information during and after times of disaster such as flood, hurricane or tornado destruction. Plus, in an emergency you could carry a backup of your data with you. As a physician, think about how you’d carry a room full of charts with you in an emergency.

6. How secure are HIE’s?

HIEs must comply with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), and other state and federal laws, so security must be built into the system. Unlike paper records, electronic records can be encrypted – using technology that makes them unreadable to anyone other than an authorized user – and security access parameters are set so that only authorized individuals can view them.

Furthermore, any time a person accesses an electronic record, the information is tracked and audited. When paper records are viewed by people, it is very difficult to track who saw the information and whether it was authorized.

7. What type of health information is being exchanged vie the HIE and who has access?

Only health information important for providing care is exchanged between authorized health care providers who have a relationship with you (the patient) and have a need to know this information for providing treatment.

Only providers who have entered into a legal contract with the RGV HIE and agree to abide by its strict privacy and security policies and comply with relevant federal and state laws are allowed access to their patients’ information in the HIE.

The law (often referred to as “HIPAA,” or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy and Security Rules) prohibits health care providers from sharing your personal health information for any purpose other than treatment, payment, and health care operations without special permission from you to do so. HIEs, like RGV HIE, will have built-in support for HIPAA and other security and privacy laws.

When your health information is shared through the HIE, information about access to your record is stored electronically in an accounting history. This includes the identity of those who accessed your record, the date of access, the types of information accessed and the reason your record was accessed. This makes it easier for health care providers to enforce laws and their own policies restricting access to your records and helps you track the privacy of your health information in a way that is not possible with paper records.

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