HIE Interview with Deb Hemler

HIE Interview with Deb Hemler

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If a patient goes to the ER and forgets to mention important medical information, then a doctor cannot provide the best possible care.  The Health Information Exchanges (HIE) enables doctors and healthcare providers to receive medical information quickly and accurately to provide better medical care for patients. CoreTech is proud to work with the nation’s largest HIE—the Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE), where we recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of their key resources, Deb Hemler, INPC Product Manager.

“Healthcare is hard, but it doesn’t have to be. We can pull it all together.  The point is to discover the pain point for the healthcare provider and start to build from there,” said Hemler.

iStock_000020295181XSmallThe key to finding the pain point is to talk directly to the people handling the patients because the decision makers usually aren’t familiar with the true root cause of the problems. Hemler noted it can be difficult to provide true quality healthcare, because patients don’t always tell their physician all of the details, like when they visit to another hospital.  Without all of the information, a healthcare provider often finds themselves at a true disadvantage.

Having access to the data out there is the key to enhancing the quality of patient care.  HIEs offer this solution to any healthcare organization and that is only one of many benefits!  “How often do doctors pay people to locate a paper chart when with EMR everyone can be in the chart at the same time?” said Hemler.

Several studies show EMRs also save money in the long run. “With Meaningful Use (MU) dollars doctors can recoup some of the costs” Hemler added. There have been some tentative talks about reducing Medicare/ Medicaid funding if a hospital or physician’s office has not adopted EMR by the end of MU.  “Getting through the learning process is a big concern for doctors, but once they get past the training stage they usually love it and can’t imagine not using an EMR” said Hemler.

Another HIE benefit is Public Health Reporting. Hospitals are required to report infectious diseases to CMS and IHIE is able to review every lab result and automatically report this information, providing immediate access to this information, avoiding potential errors in reporting, and allowing hospitals to remove this task from their provider’s workflow.


HIE Challenges

Some physicians have security concerns surrounding electronic records, but there are similar risks with paper charts as well. For example, doctors can take the charts home or leave them on their desk for someone else to see the information.

Another common problem faced by the HIE is the ability to get hospitals to see the benefits of the HIE, commit to, and sign-up for the service.  In many cases, small hospital systems in areas with only one hospital have really struggled to see the value because most of the patients go to only one hospital. And in areas with two hospitals competing against each other it’s also a challenge to demonstrate the benefits. “Getting hospitals to commit and sign up is our biggest challenge at IHIE. The process is a lot of work and it has taken time to get the hospitals to commit, but MU sort of pushed them to all sign-up and now they are beginning to see the benefits,” said Hemler.


HIE Standards

Standards are important and it’s necessary to keep your eye on regulations. The priority is to keep the data flowing by asking, “What does the client need? What does the government need? etc.,” noted Hemler.

Hemler also sees some value in the government providing guidelines to standardize lab results and the language so we can say, “Here are a few things we’re all going to do the same.” The difference between IHIE and other HIEs is that IHIE has been around the longest and therefore has to adjust to new government rules and regulations as they are announced, causing changes to their existing processes. This can sometimes hinder progress because IHIE has to go back and change the way they do things. “We get to the same result but in a different way,” said Hemler.


HIE Future

IHIE currently delivers results across Indiana, to over 2000 physicians in Illinois, and they intend to continue to expand that number. They have a goal to work with other states and regions to provide its services to them. One way they plan to achieve this goal is by using such events as Connectathons to connect with other HIEs to share their knowledge and experience in this state and others.

Healthcare technology is ever changing and always looking for ways to improve and individuals like Deb Hemler help to move it forward.  CoreTech is excited to continue its work with IHIE and to see it grow. We also look forward to sharing our expertise and experience with HIEs in other states with the vision of one day having every HIE in the country linked together sharing information.


About Deb Hemler

Hemler originally worked for Michiana Health Information Network in South Bend. Hemler and the HIE IT director worked from the physician’s perspective to get medical records and patient information in one location. Hemler heard Tom Penno from IHIE speak at a HIMSS conference while she was working on her Masters in Healthcare and Penno’s presentation reinforced her studies on HIE’s and the work Regenstrief was doing in Clinical Results delivery.

Hemler started with IHIE’s Docs4Docs program in 2006 and traveled across the state to recruit hospitals to participate. IHIE has connected the state’s five big healthcare systems (IU Health, Community, St. Vincent, Ascension/Franciscan and Wishard) and is working to connect smaller hospitals and physician’s offices.

~ Zoraida Kincaid

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