A Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO) is a group of organizations within a specific area that share healthcare-related information electronically according to accepted healthcare information technology (HIT) standards. A RHIO typically oversees the means of information exchange among various provider settings, payers and government agencies.
The RHIO is one model toward achieving the proposed National Health Information Network (NHIN) in the United States. The key components of the health IT infrastructure are:
- Electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR) for healthcare professionals.
- Personal health records (PHR) for individuals.
- Health information exchange (HIE) to facilitate electronic communications among all entities involved.
- The Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO), which organizes and oversees facilities participating in information exchange within a geographical area.
Importance of the role of Regional Health Information Organization
A Regional Health Information Organization brings together various stakeholders in geographic areas, such as healthcare providers, hospitals, smaller clinics, payers and government agencies, to safely and securely share health-related information electronically for the purpose of improving health and care.
Exchanging clinical information electronically enables doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other healthcare providers and patients to improve the speed, quality, safety, coordination and cost of patient care.
RHIOs also support the use of clinical data for research and to assess and improve the quality of care that hospitals and healthcare providers provide.
RHIOs also improve the quality of healthcare and patient outcomes by:
- Decreasing medical and medication errors.
- Reducing unnecessary tests and services.
- Ensuring everyone involved in the care of a patient has access to the same information.
- Decreasing administrative costs by simplifying many administrative tasks.
- Increasing patients’ involvement in their own healthcare.
- Reducing the time patients spend filling out paperwork.
- Decreasing the time patients spend briefing providers about their medical histories.
- Coordinating with as well as supporting public health officials to improve the health of people in their communities.
Key components of RHIOs
Although no two Regional Health Information Organizations are exactly the same, they typically consist of similar organizational and technical components that allow them to electronically share patient information with their stakeholders.
Organizational components include:
- Documented standards for data-exchange – all stakeholders agree that they will support the agreed-upon formats for the exchange of personal health information (PHI).
- Participation agreement – a formalized relationship between the RHIO and the stakeholders that includes legal obligations and payment terms.
- Data-use agreement – stakeholders agree on how to use the data that they receive via the RHIO, such as limiting the use to treatment purposes.
Technical components may include:
- Implemented data interfaces – the way the RHIOs send and receives patient data may include user-interface features that are integrated within the existing electronic health records (EHR) systems of the stakeholders.
- Master patient index – consolidates patient demographic information and unique identifiers across the participating organizations to match patients’ clinical information that’s held by different providers.
- Record-locator service – tracks the presence and location of patients’ data among the stakeholders.
- Patient-data repository – some RHIOs aggregate, normalize and store patient data that’s submitted by the participating organizations.
- Data-sharing applications – these provide various functions, including document retrieval, search, alerts and data analysis, for the patient data that’s accessible via the RHIO.
Examples of RHIOs
One example of a RHIO is the Orange County Partnership Regional Health Information Organization (OCPRHIO), California’s community-wide health information exchange initiative. OCPRHIO is working collaboratively to connect providers across California electronically so they can easily access patient records whenever and wherever they need them. OCPRHIO’s mission is to support a unified approach to secure health information exchange among healthcare stakeholders, including patients, in California.
The Bronx Regional Health Information Organization (Bronx RHIO) in New York City is a clinical information exchange established by the borough’s leading healthcare organizations, including hospitals, health systems, ambulatory care centers, individual physician offices, long-term care, home care as well as community and other organizations.
The Bronx RHIO offers a secure, interoperable health information exchange that enables providers across the borough to access vital patient information from multiple sources where and when they need it to deliver better, safer and more efficient healthcare. The organization’s mission is to build a secure, interoperable health information exchange that will make it possible for patients’ medical records to follow them wherever they go for health services in the Bronx.
The Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) is committed to advancing healthcare by improving information technology and data exchange between people, providers and communities by giving them the information they need to improve health. CORHIO’s health information exchange technology, data analytics tools and expert consulting help healthcare providers access information that streamlines the coordination of care, reduces costs, improves clinical outcomes for millions of people and saves lives.