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February 20
Collaborating to Improve Health Information Exchange

Authors: Kevin Horahan and Tara Holland, Emergency Care Coordination Center (ECCC), HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

Getting a complete and accurate picture of a patient’s medical history is a challenge under normal circumstances, but it is even more difficult – and even more important - in an emergency. Take, for example, a fairly common occurrence. A woman falls and breaks her arm. Someone calls 9-1-1 and an ambulance arrives. An emergency medical technician (EMT) or paramedic provides treatment and transports her to the emergency department (ED) where she gets an x-ray and a cast. After leaving the ED, she follows up with an orthopedic surgeon and receives treatment from a physical therapist.

Each of these providers creates a record, and there’s a pretty good chance those records are electronic. However, in many cases – and for emergency medical services (EMS) it’s virtually all cases - these systems aren’t integrated, making it difficult to get a complete picture of the patient’s medical history or health needs.

But what exactly does a connected and interoperable emergency care system look like?

This was a question posed to a group of members from the EMS, emergency care, and health information technology (HIT) communities at a meeting hosted earlier this month by ASPR’s Emergency Care Coordination Center in conjunction with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

EMS is both the gateway to and an integral part of the healthcare system. Currently, few EMS systems are connected to a health information exchange or other electronic health/medical records system. There are many challenges to sharing of EMS data, including funding, proprietary systems, and a lack of collaboration.

It’s our hope that EMS will become a full participant in the electronic exchange of health information. This would entail the regular and secure two-way exchange between EMS and other health care facilities and payers.

Improving the current system will lead to more efficient transitions of care, more fully integrate EMS into the health care system, and provide better patient outcomes and experiences. It will also improve resilience in the face of disasters and other disruptions of our healthcare system.

During the meeting, members of the EMS and HIT communities openly discussed their experiences and successes, while identifying innovative ideas, potential business use cases and pilot projects for the future. Attendees also identified current challenges and issues and brainstormed solutions related to the incorporation of HIT in the pre-hospital environment.

As a result of this stakeholder engagement, we are excited to announce that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is launching the ASPR Collaboration Community campaign on IdeaScale.

The community’s first campaign, Health Information Technology and EMS, is focused on the issue of health information technology in the pre-hospital environment. It provides interested stakeholders a place to connect and continue the discussion on issues and successes surrounding connectivity to the new health information exchanges.

You can access the collaboration community at phegov.ideascale.com to participate in our first campaign. Please check out our current campaign and subscribe to this campaign to receive updates as new ideas are posted.

Please note: The ASPR Collaboration Community IdeaScale website is not for the purpose of advising ASPR or the U.S. government. Rather, it is available for all as a means to share insights and experiences so that others might benefit from those experiences and the resulting knowledge.

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