For Patients

Welcome to HIETexas, your source of information about electronic health information exchange (HIE) in Texas.

Please explore the answers to questions below, and the links provided for more information, to understand how HIE affects you and can enable better, safer and more efficient health care for you, your family, and your community.

What is Health IT (HIT)?

Health information technology (HIT) is the use of computer-based technology to securely store, organize, and exchange health information. HIT is changing the way health care is provided, and has already been employed in many ways. Now, through HIE, it has the ability to help directly improve your health care and your ability to manage your care by enabling the secure, immediate, electronic exchange of information between your care providers so that they can provide faster, safer and more accurate care.

What is health information exchange (HIE)?

Electronic health information exchange, or HIE, is about you, the patient. It is the secure electronic movement of health information among treating physicians and other care providers and related organizations according to national and state laws and nationally recognized standards. The purpose of HIE is to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care using health information technology to enable care providers to have the right information in their hands at the right time.

What are electronic health records (EHR)?

Electronic health records (EHR) are simply electronically stored versions of your medical records, which have previously been kept as paper records in physical files, usually in physicians' offices. An EHR may contain information such as:

  • Medical history
  • Diagnoses
  • Medication and immunizations history
  • Allergies
  • Radiology images and lab test results

Electronic records are immediately retrievable by a care provider when needed. With the development of the ability to electronically exchange records via HIE, those records can be accessed quickly by other care providers treating you, whether a specialist consulting or treating you on referral from your primary care physician, or an EMT, hospital admissions officer, or other care giver providing emergency care.

Many health care providers have made or are making a transition from paper files to electronic records. HIE in Texas will also enable providers who do not yet have EHR to electronically exchange records via secure email.

What does electronic health information exchange (HIE) mean for you?

As a patient or patient's family or guardian, you have an opportunity to experience higher quality, safer and more accurate, and more efficient care as your health care providers are able to electronically access and share with each other in a secure manner the health information essential to your treatment.

Learn more about what HIE can mean to you through real experiences, shared by real patients, provided by the federal Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

How can HIE improve the quality, efficiency and safety of health care?

HIE enables the electronic exchange of health care information through a secure, electronic health information system that safeguards confidentiality by adhering to federal and state laws, rules and standards, and through appropriate levels of patient consent.

HIE makes it possible for the doctor treating you or your family member to have rapid, even immediate, electronic access to your medical information necessary to treat you effectively, accurately and safely, and efficiently.

HIE means:

  • Less waiting for paper files to be delivered from one treating physician to another when you are referred for additional treatment or consultations; it provides the ability to send, at the push of a button, test results and images from your physician to a specialist or other care provider, rather than having to wait for them to be faxed or mailed, or you having to physically deliver them;
  • Less paperwork in your doctor's office, with electronically-stored medical records making it faster and easier for your care provider to access and refer to your records and reducing the need for you to fill out multiple, duplicative forms when you arrive for a visit;
  • Better coordination of care between your treating physicians,
  • Eliminating unnecessary duplicative tests, x-rays, and other procedures, or the possibility of adverse reactions to treatment that conflicts with prior prescribed medications or other treatment because a physician does not have the results of prior care;
  • Access for your care providers to up-to-date clinical research and new clinical guidelines to use when making medical decisions; and
  • Your ability to access your own personal health information, enabling you to better manage, in partnership with your physicians, your personal health and health care.

The federal Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) provides more information about how HIE can help improve health care for you, your family, and your community.

The ONC also provides information about how you can access your health records.

What about the privacy and security of your patient information?

The THSA believes the patient and consumer should be the focus of all efforts to use health information technology, including HIE. Patient control and ownership of personal health information must be protected and patient privacy must be respected. Health information technology has great potential to benefit health outcomes for consumers, but not at the risk of violating personal privacy.

Federal and state laws protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients' personal health information. The Texas Health Services Authority (THSA), in coordination with the HHSC, with guidance from the Texas Legislature and input from stakeholders, is working to develop uniform privacy and security standards and policies that reflect federal and state requirements to protect the privacy and security of your personal health information when it is exchanged between authorized health care providers in Texas.

The federal Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) provides more information about you can protect the privacy and security of your protected health information.

Why is Texas implementing HIE statewide?

The purpose of HIE is to use health information technology to support improvement in the quality, efficiency and safety of health care by improving access by health care providers to their patients' health information as necessary to ensure that the patient receives the right care, from the right person, at the right time.

Implementing HIE statewide will also help to ensure that Texas physicians and hospitals are eligible to receive billions in available federal meaningful use incentive payments over the next decade. In the long-term, Texas has an opportunity to leverage technology to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of the Texas health care sector while protecting individual privacy.

How do I know if my doctor has EHR or participates in HIE?

You can ask your doctor or your doctor's office administrator if he or she maintains your medical records as paper files or has adopted (or plans to adopt) electronic health records (EHR).

You can also ask if your physician participates in local or statewide HIE through a local community-based HIE. If you live in a rural or other area of the state not served by a local HIE (commonly referred to as the Texas White Space), you may also ask if your doctor participates in HIE using Direct-based messaging services provided by a health information services provider (HISP).

Who is involved in HIE?

Texas health care patients and their appropriately designated representatives, physicians, hospitals, other health care providers, and insurers or other health care payers have an opportunity to be involved in and benefit from HIE in Texas.

HIE also involves the information exchange partners who together comprise the infrastructure for health information exchange in Texas. They include Texas Local HIE Grant program community-based HIEs, Texas White Space qualified health information service providers (HISPs), and others providing secure health information messaging or more robust exchange services in our state.

HIE in Texas also includes the Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), which coordinate together in the development and governance of Texas HIE, and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), which administers the state Medicaid program and the Center for Health Statistics (CHS), the state's portal for public health data.

How can I get involved in HIE?

You can get involved in HIE in many ways. Here are just a few:

  • Ask your doctor(s) if they have adopted or are thinking about adopting EHR, and if they participate or are considering participating in HIE.
  • If your doctor does participate in HIE, ask what you need to do to provide your doctor with your consent for the inclusion of your protected health information (PHI) in HIE. Also ask what options you have to access your own PHI.
  • If you live in one of Texas' major metropolitan areas or surrounding regions served by a local community-based HIE, contact that HIE to learn more about what it doing to facilitate HIE in its service area, and to ask whether your doctor(s) are members of the HIE. (An HIE is a non-profit organization that provides health information exchange capabilities in its area and across Texas, and even beyond, for its member physicians, hospitals and other health care providers.) To learn about the Texas Local HIE Grant Program and it's participating local HIEs, including information about the areas they serve, services they provide, and contact information, see the HIETexas Local HIEs page.
  • If you are interested in learning more about Texas HIE and its development on a policy level, you may want to consider listening in on HIE governance calls, watching THSA board meetings, or even joining a THSA task force. For more information on all of these activities, please see the HIETexas Collaborative Process page.

Where can I go to learn more about HIE terms?

Please see the HIETexas Glossary of Terms.

Patient Privacy & Security FAQ

The THSA, with input from stakeholders, developed the following frequently asked questions on patient privacy and security to aid health care consumers in understanding how their health information is protected under state and federal medical privacy laws, such as HIPAA, the HITECH Act, and the Texas Medical Records Privacy Act.

THSA Patient Privacy & Security FAQ (May 2013)