The National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII) is a healthcare standardization initiative with the goal of developing an interoperable health information technology system. Proposed under President George W. Bush, the intention of NHII is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and overall quality of healthcare in the United States.
By 2015 — when the NHII initiative will be operational — a patient's medical record will no longer travel alone. NHII is voluntary, and it’s not a centralized database of medical records. It’s also not a government regulation. But since this comprehensive network of systems will include clinical, public health and personal health information, physicians will have a broader base of patient records to use in decision-making.
The NHII has since evolved to become the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN), while the use of financial incentives to stimulate the meaningful use of electronic health record (EHR) systems became the cornerstone of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH Act. The cornerstones of NHII are still in place, building a patient’s holistic record from various physicians — medical and dental. There are currently 24 public and private entities participating in the NHIN Cooperative.
Why does NHIN matter for your physician’s office? First, this improves patient safety. With unified patient information, medication errors are less likely and physicians are more aware of the patient’s conditions, allergies, past illnesses and more. Plus, NHII can strengthen healthcare quality by increasing availability of complete medical records, test results, x-rays and more, right at the point of patient care. While the NHIN presents challenges, there are significant benefits for both doctor and patient.
As 2015 approaches, take these steps to get your dental practice ready for these changes:
- Ensure security of patient files.
To provide the best care for patients, it’s important to secure their records. Disorganization of files, records and medication prescriptions can lead to mislabeling and even inconsistent patient care. Security safes and file storage keep your practice running efficiently, with the right files in the right storage areas. Patient records document the course of treatment and may provide data useful for evaluating the quality of patient care — so good organization means efficient care. And furthermore, your medical office will stay HIPAA compliant.
- Ensure patient files are both available and secure electronically.
The basic rule of electronic data is called 3-2-1 backup. Maintain three (3) copies of your data on at least two (2) different systems and one (1) of those systems should be disaster protected or offsite. Companies like Egnyte and ioSafe offer solutions for electronic patient records that focus on security and privacy. Combining private cloud features and local storage that is fireproof and waterproof allow dentist practices to get the highest level of availability and accessibility, even in the event of water damage or worse yet, a natural disaster such as fire or flood.
- Maintain electronic backups of patient files on site for quick access.
As healthcare data moves to the cloud, both for NHIN and otherwise, efficiency increases. But so does security risk. Protect your patients’ critical data and make sure medical records are readily available no matter the disaster. From hardware failure, employee theft, to fires and floods, there are a wide variety of risks that should be considered for mitigation.