Giving Compass' Take:

• Bita A. Kash and Stephen L. Jones explain how health information exchanges can streamline medical transitions and drive down healthcare costs, but they are not yet being leveraged properly.

• How can funders increase the reach and use of health information exchanges? 

• Learn about tech improving no-show rates in healthcare

Can you imagine a future where the question “Did you bring a copy of your test results?” becomes entirely unnecessary?

That could happen, but the methods that most health care providers use to exchange healthcare information are little different than they were 5,000 years ago, when physicians caring for the same patient exchanged scrolls of papyrus and clay tablets.

Since the inception of computing technology, health care systems and doctors have been trying to find ways to dispense with the inefficiency and to share information electronically.

One of the building blocks for this information bridge is something called a health information exchange. These exchanges allow for the transfer of electronic health information, such as your medical records, laboratory test results and medication lists, among hospitals and providers. Yet, our recent research showed that, despite clear benefits of health information exchanges, they are not being utilized as often as they could be.

Studies show that about two in three hospital systems and about half of physician practices utilize a default “opt in” for sharing of patient information through the health information exchange.

But even so, participation in the health information exchange does not always mean effective use of it toward better medical care and health outcomes.

Prior research suggests that there is very little health information exchange penetration into health systems. Additionally, our recent research shows that relatively few hospitals, about 12 percent, are using the health information exchange as a strategy to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions, which is important to controlling costs and improving health outcomes. Readmissions cost Medicare an estimated US$26 billion a year.

Read the full article about health information exchanges by Bita A. Kash and Stephen L. Jones at The Conversation.