Posted on: August 20, 2018

Not long ago, someone in my family had outpatient surgery at a local orthopedic center. As I sat alongside my family member in the post-op recovery area, I overheard the conversation at the nurses’ station just across the walkway. One comment caught my attention.

“We probably just saved that patient’s life,” one nurse said to another.

She described how a patient came in for surgery that morning, but when she took the patient’s blood pressure reading, it was so high that the surgery had to be postponed. The medical team sent the patient elsewhere for immediate follow-up to the extreme blood pressure reading.

The nurses didn’t discuss any information that should have been protected by HIPAA, they never referred to any identifying details and they never said the patient’s name. They were just very proud that they’d recognized a major surgical contraindication, avoided endangering the patient and referred the person for extra care in a different setting.

“Huh,” I thought, “This facility isn’t connected to Hixny.”

Then I thought through what would have happened if the center was connected. Two scenarios came to mind right away:

  • The team might have known about the patient’s hypertension in advance.  If it had been documented elsewhere, they may have seen that before the visit. Knowing more about the patient’s condition earlier could have prevented the loss of revenue from a cancelled procedure—and expedited the treatment of the patient’s orthopedic discomfort.
  • The nurse could have expedited the patient’s care for hypertension.  By contributing the blood pressure reading to Hixny, she would have made it immediately available to the facility where the patient was referred.  And, if it was the second high reading, the patient would have been added to a hypertension registry, triggering an alert to the primary care provider or specialist.

Since the facility wasn’t connected to Hixny, though, the medical team did everything manually. They provided solid medical care, but could they really close the loop? Did the patient go where they were sent? Did they get treated? Will they have the planned surgery later? The only way to answer those questions is if each medical provider or facility caring for that patient shares data through the health information exchange.

We often hear that certain types of specialists and surgical practices don’t need to retrieve much data from Hixny—that they often function like self-contained islands. But consider this: What if another provider needs the information you gathered when a patient was on your island?

Find us @Hixny on Twitter and let me know what you think. What is a provider’s obligation to share their information with the entire provider community? Can you truly provide quality care if you don’t have access to all of a patient’s health data?