By Taylor Simpson
Imagine living in a neighborhood where people speak a different language in every house on your block. Now imagine that it’s your job to work with the people in each of those houses to get them all speaking a common language that enables them to work together toward a common goal. Finally, imagine that your own well-being depends upon how well the people in the various houses communicate with each other. 
Does that sound like a difficult task?
Of course it does, and essentially, it is one of the biggest challenges that health information exchanges (HIEs) across the nation currently face. Each hospital and clinic has its own electronic health record (EHR) system in which patients’ medical records are stored. Each EHR speaks its own language, making it difficult to exchange data between different EHR systems at different locations.
But how does this affect you?
As a patient, you may receive care at multiple locations and perhaps you would like for the health care providers at all those facilities to have access to your information. Without having a common language, it’s difficult to exchange that data between providers at different locations quickly and easily. However, if each facility speaks a common language, it enables better transfer of information, potentially leading to better care because those providers have more complete and timely information with which they can better treat you.
HIEs across the country, and the Louisiana Health Information Exchange (LaHIE) in particular, are paving the way for standardization of communication between providers, partnering with EHR vendors, government agencies and non-profit organizations to push forward the use of “common languages” between organizations that provide health care for you.
The goal is to have everyone involved in your community of care speaking the same language, so that your health records flow seamlessly and quickly from provider to provider and are available where and when they’re needed. For patients like you, the end result of having this ‘common language’ in place will be better, safer care, and that’s a language we can all speak.