Improving Patient Safety with Health Information Exchange Networks

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Pharmacists play a critical role in helping prevent adverse drug events and ensuring patient safety. But their job is complicated by the fact that they typically do not have access to health information exchange (HIE) networks, which allow health care providers to securely share and access data about a patient. As a result, HIEs often have incomplete or missing medication lists for patients.

To better understand how improved pharmacist access to HIEs could improve the quality of patient care and reduce adverse drug events, Telligen—the Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization serving Colorado, Iowa and Illinois — launched a one-year demonstration project in early 2016 in partnership with CORHIO, Colorado’s largest HIE.

The project recruited 20 pharmacists from across the state’s health care network, including hospitals, local pharmacies and ambulatory care, giving them free access to the CORHIO HIE network, as well as training on how to effectively use the exchange. Once they started using the HIE, pharmacists regularly documented successful interventions, such as preventing adverse drug events, that were made possible because they had improved access to a patient’s health record. Project participants then met regularly to share challenges and successes, and take monthly assessments.


In January 2017, after six months of actively using the HIEs, participating pharmacists reported that they had prevented over a dozen adverse drug events, several of which were from high-risk medications. In addition, they reported more than seven unique clinical uses for HIEs, such as obtaining labs and care transitions, although medication reconciliation was considered the most important use. 

Overall, 69 percent of participating pharmacists agreed that their ability to provide care improved with HIE access and the majority changed their workflow to better incorporate HIEs moving forward. CORHIO is now recruiting additional pharmacists across the state to participate in the health information exchange.