Susannah Mushatt Jones isn’t a doctor. In fact, she isn’t even a nurse, but she is important in the world of healthcare. You see, while Jones may not have a part in saving lives and isn’t researching the latest medical breakthrough, she is living proof of the how effective the advancements made in medicine over the last 100 years have been. That’s because Jones is the world’s oldest person and just a few short weeks ago she celebrated her 116th birthday.

Jones recently told Guinness World Records that the reason she’s made it more than a decade and a half past the century mark is due to “sleep.” However, advancements in technology and medical breakthroughs have helped raise the life expectancy in the US to more than 80 years, since Jones was born in 1899. Although modern medicine has helped improve the quality of life for many—and has unquestionably been able to save lives that would have been lost without the proper medical advances—the healthcare industry still has a very real problem. While healthcare technologies and practices have advanced dramatically, the way we track patients’ health records hasn’t kept up as we still rely on paper records.

The problem with keeping paper records today is that the medical world is now too complex and large for a system like this to work effectively. Paper records either need to be mailed, faxed or provided by the patient to their provider, and there are numerous possibilities for missteps along the way.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of patients who get two prescriptions from two different doctors that are harmless on their own, but when combined, turn into a lethal cocktail. And this happens all because those two doctors weren’t looking at identical medical chart records.

A solution has been found, however: Electronic Health Records (EHR). While not universally adopted yet, there has been great success found by those who have made the switch to EHRs, such as the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO). The use of EHR has allowed a standardization of healthcare data that permits for greater interoperability—or the ability to seamlessly exchange data between healthcare providers.

By leveraging EHR, CORHIO has been able to set up a health information exchange (HIE) between the 5,705 providers and 47 hospitals it represents. This system has also streamlined healthcare for CORHIO and has made the proper data available to any provider or hospital a patient chooses within their organization. To put into perspective how successful this implementation has been, consider these statistics, aggregated by Healthcare Infomatics:

  • The number of HIEs has grown in number of users by 111 percent since 2014
  • The amount of healthcare data that is now available for providers because of EHR and HIE has grown by 118 percent
  • This year marks the third straight year where these two stats have seen triple-digit growth

To assess the impact of EHRs and HIEs, let’s revisit Jones’ life. Such technologies allowed for the free exchange of standardized data that was able to help healthcare providers:

  • Avoid readmissions by monitoring a more complete medical history
  • Avoid medication errors such as duplicated prescriptions or lethal combinations
  • More accurately diagnose symptoms and lower the chances of ordering lab tests more than once

Although the benefits of making the switch to EHR and HIE are evident, more than 40 percent of hospitals today still are without these technology upgrades. One obstacle in particular that is preventing adoption in hospitals is that many institutions lack the healthcare IT staff needed to facilitate this type of overarching transformation.

Therefore, healthcare providers that are planning on transitioning to EHRs should first consider embracing a legacy technology modernization process—or bringing their current systems up-to-date and integrating those to better communicate with one another. Once that is complete, an HIE system can be constructed to allow for the seamless exchange of data between hospitals and other healthcare providers.

To learn how your hospital or healthcare organization can get started, and how AAJ can help you every step of the way, click here.