EHR Dream Soon Reality with TEFCA
Almost 15 years in the making, the dream of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) is finally coming to fruition. TEFCA is its name.
For years, patients have borne the burden of making sure each of their doctors knows their current medications, conditions, and past medical history. If they forget to mention something to their provider, it could directly impact their quality of care. In this technologically advanced world of iPhones and Internet, it seems unconscionable that a doctor would not see all of your past medical records and an accurate medical history with the touch of a button. Privacy, both for the doctor and the patient, as well as technology, have long stood in the way, and it is the patient who suffers.
For a decade and a half, doctors have begrudgingly become data entry clerks for the EHR. For the entirety of this time, there seemed to be no progress toward one of the long-term goals of the EHR, which is to allow unrestricted access to health records for the betterment of patients. Now, however, all the work put in to transferring medical records from paper to computers is finally about to pay off.
Health Information Exchange (HIE)
Much less talked about during the era of EHR is that of the Health Information Exchange (HIE). The HITECH Act in 2009, the same act that incentivized doctors to move to EHR, offered government funding to state and municipal HIEs. These HIEs were designed to share EHR between hospitals and providers to improve care and lower cost. Some HIEs decidedly performed better than others, but they were limited to the area they served. This, too, is changing.
As a U.S. citizen, you have a card and a number that identifies you. To drive a car, you have a card and a number that identifies you. To be treated by a doctor, you just give them your name, insurance, and credit card. Neither your insurance ID or credit card are acceptable ways to identify you as a patient, and there is no universal patient identifier in the U.S. Single-payor systems in other countries do not have the same issue. Every patient has a single identifying number that every doctor can use to identify precisely who they are. With the integration of the HIEs, a Master Patient Index will be established so every patient can be accurately tracked and medical records accurately shared.
A Healthcare Breakthrough
The U.S. Government is now selecting an organization to unite the HIEs, offering a national data sharing network that is set to be live by 2025. While not every doctor or patient is connected to an HIE, this will be the largest step toward interoperability that U.S. healthcare has ever seen. Not only will this create the first national network of patient data sharing, but it will also standardize the format in which data is shared; finally solving the problem of uniquely identifying a patient between different practices.
Patients have control of their own records and in each case, can either opt-in or opt-out of participation. However, electing not to share your health records is at your own risk. Only when a doctor knows your complete medical history and actually sees what each of your care providers has done in the past can they truly provide their best care.
Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA)
A new world of data sharing is on the horizon. TEFCA is its name, and all the hard work healthcare providers have done to build an accurate electronic health record for their patients will no longer need to be faxed or carried by the patient to their office. It will soon be accessible, the dots connected, and you can finally rest at ease knowing your doctors have the knowledge they need to provide the care you need and deserve.