Often when I think about a HIE (Health Information Exchange) I think about how local hospitals and medical practices are sharing data to help create vital community health statistics and gather health care information. One critical functions of HIE’s that is often overlooked is how they can help in times of emergency.

For example, in the Gulf Coast states where tornadoes and hurricanes abound, progress is being made in creating an interstate connection. The idea that is times of natural disaster when residents are forced from their homes and paper medical records may be in jeopardy of being destroyed, electronic records can follow the patient as they seek medical care. As citizens are displaced and seek medical care from new physicians and medical facilities, their health records can be accessed and critical health information utilized to provide better care.

In Michigan, an HIE is now able to provide medical records to the EMS (Emergency Medical Services) industry. The digital hub is not software specific and is able to provide EMS and fire responders critical health information no matter which patient records system is used. Through this revolutionary HIE, responders will be able treat patients quickly and more efficiently with personal health information.

These are just two examples of how HIE’s can go beyond gathering data and really, truly help people in need. I personally can’t wait to see how else we can learn to utilize the data in HIE’s!