How Switching to Digital Health Information Exchange (HIE) Can Improve Patient Care Quality

Specialty providers offer a depth of knowledge and expertise but sadly seeing different physicians can prove challenging as it requires excellent communication between offices and a seamless data-sharing process. With paper records not withstanding the test of time, electronic health information exchange (HIE) promises highly anticipated change.

While frustrating, valuable pieces of a patient’s clinical information tend to get lost in limbo, leaving an incomplete puzzle for the next provider to piece together. This means that countless clinicians evaluate their patients with significant gaps in their medical history, including missing imagery and test results.

We can do better, particularly when we embrace technology as a companion and facilitator on our journey to better patient care — and this is where digital health information exchange (HIE) comes in.

What is HIE & What Are Its Benefits?

HIE stands for health information exchange and refers to electronic access to a patient’s clinical data for medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and health administrators.¹ HIE also enables clinical staff to share this clinical data with outside organizations and healthcare systems.¹

While most physicians have transitioned to HIE to some extent, a lot of clinical data intake is still done on paper and much of this data is still stored in physical files. This makes accessing health data difficult as only on-site medical personnel will have access to these records.

The electronic health information exchange can fill significant gaps in our healthcare landscape, improving patient care and patient satisfaction, all while providing faster results.

Instead of submitting medical records to other providers via mail or fax — which have both been associated with delays and require multiple points of contact, HIE offers a quick and reliable alternative to transfer clinical data to other offices.

This transfer between various medical facilities is essential to ensure patient records are complete and unnecessary medical tests and examinations, some of which are very costly, are not duplicated.

As a result, you’ll be able to offer your patients better and more specialized care and will be able to work much more cost-effectively.

Examples of HIEs

HIEs can include any health information exchange between medical facilities, clinics, hospitals, and even pharmacies. HIEs, therefore, refer to any clinical patient data or health information that’s shared via electronic means. This can include:

  • Office notes
  • Referrals to other offices
  • Medication lists and prescriptions
  • Medical histories and patient charts
  • Immunization records
  • Hospital admission notes and discharge summaries
  • Lab results
  • Medical imaging (MRI, CT, X-rays, etc.)

The purpose of digital health information exchanges is to save the medical staff time and improve productivity. It also provides continuity of care and offers patients better health outcomes — you’ll identify medical issues more easily and can initiate treatment faster.

Types of HIE

Many different types of health information exchange are common in the healthcare industry and necessary to achieve fluid everyday operations. Below we list some of the most significant HIEs in healthcare and how they can help your practice perform better.

(1) Directed Exchange

A directed exchange enables you as the treating physician to send notes or access a patient’s medical history and office notes from specialty providers or their primary care provider, including hospital notes, lab results, and prescriptions at their pharmacy — as long as these facilities participate in the secure electronic health information exchange.

Similar to an encrypted email,¹ the clinical data you select for sharing can be sent directly through your EHR (electronic health record) for other providers to view and store on their end.

Directed exchange is particularly helpful when you send vital clinical information alongside a referral to a specialty provider.

(2) Query-Based Exchange

Another type of HIE encompasses the query-based exchange where a clinician requests specific clinical data from another provider due to a specific visit (like a visit to the ER). In many instances, query-based exchanges are more pressing, which leads the treating physician to reach out in order to fill gaps in their patient’s records in a timely fashion.

Whether you need lab results to avoid redundant testing, medication lists to verify what your patient is currently taking, a comprehensive medical history so you can identify the best possible treatment plan, or medical images that may be fundamental for diagnosing your patient with a new condition — a query-based exchange is an HIE that can address a specific problem promptly. 

(3) Consumer-mediated Exchange

Another type of electronic health information exchange is the consumer-mediated exchange, which is a form of data acquisition that puts the patient at the heart of medical record transfers between organizations.²

This means that the patient has full access to his clinical data and thus, has more control of his health journey. In addition to managing his medical records, the patient can also function as an administrator, updating demographics, billing information, and his health insurance.²

HIE Set-Up & Security

One of the main concerns providers have when transitioning their practice to electronic health information exchanges, is whether patient data will be secure. But despite cyberattacks frequenting the healthcare industry, HIE is considered highly secure, abiding by industry standards, and using tight encryption protocols to ensure regulations and federal laws are met.

Even in the unfortunate event that an unauthorized entity was to gain access to your patient’s data, encryption would allow for continued confidentiality, thus offering additional protection against data breaches.

While all HIEs are considered secure, there are three main models whose structures varies: the centralized, federated, and hybrid models.

(1) Centralized Model

A centralized HIE model relies on a Clinical Data Repository (CDR) for both data collection and storage. Participating healthcare entities have administrative rights and can transfer, store, and update patient data.

While the centralized model requires a higher initial investment, it offers clinics a quick response time on data returns. Since this model utilizes a single repository, audit trails are easy to track and evaluate. It also allows for standardization of security protocols due to the utilization of a single database.³

(2) Federated Model

A federated health information exchange — also referred to as a decentralized model, encompasses multiple remote data repositories where clinical data can be shared with participants upon request.

Because data exchange is more complex with this HIE structure, it’s considered less interoperable, and thus, locating specific health records can prove more challenging.

(3) Hybrid Model

Hybrid HIEs are a combination of multiple HIE models and can, therefore, look different. The idea behind hybrid models is to find a balance between the centralized and federated models and using the best features each of these structures has to offer.

Seamless Health Information Exchange with Vivlio Health

Electronic health information exchanges are becoming increasingly important as your healthcare staff is working towards improved efficiency and better patient care. Communication among organizations is imperative for achieving quality outcomes and enhancing treatment plans — and Vivlio Health can help you do just that.

Vivlio Health has designed a platform that allows you to access medical records and patient data from specialty providers, primary care practices, hospitals, and other medical entities. Because we know how important it is for you to utilize the most cost-effective solutions, you can even filter and search for specific notes or lab results — and save a ton of time in the process.

Let’s work together to enhance the healthcare experience for your patients and improve workflows for your staff — because your journey starts now.

Want to find out how Vivlio Health works and how we can enhance your health information exchange with other providers? You can schedule a free demo here or reach out to us with your questions and we’ll be in touch.



  1. “What is HIE? |” Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 24 July 2020, Accessed 4 June 2024. 
  2. “What are the different types of health information exchange? |” Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 8 July 2019, Accessed 4 June 2024. 
  3. “HIE Models: Security Pros and Cons. Weighing the Merits of Centralized, Federated and Hybrid Models.” Gov Info Security, 31 August 2012, Accessed 4 June 2024.