Select Page
« Back to Glossary Index

Electronic Health Information Exchange (HIE) is the electronic communication of health-related data between medical institutions, clinicians, and patients. This secure transmission of sensitive medical information is carried out entirely electronically between ONLY approved entities. This reduces total costs, increases patient care speed, safety, quality, and coordination.

Three Types of Health Information Exchange

There are three distinct types of this electronic system that are now known to be used by approved entities in order for it to function successfully.

Directed Exchange.

This secure method is used by numerous health care providers to directly transfer the medical information of each patient to ensure the use of coordinated care. This can include patient referrals, lab results and orders, immunization data, or even discharge summaries. The encrypted form of this extremely sensitive information is sent and received through the internet between trusted providers.

Query-Based Exchange

The trusted organizations with access to these records are able to find and/or request additional information about specific patients from other healthcare providers. This is a great way for any provider to gain knowledge on a new patient who has come to them in search of quality care. Physicians who work in the Emergency Room can truly benefit from this kind of access and reduction of administrative tasks when they must give time-sensitive care.

Consumer-Mediated Exchange.

Consumer-Mediated Exchange allows patients to take back control of their personal medical information. They can easily manage their own health care by gaining access to their information online. If they see any notes that are not correct within their file, they are able to make the necessary changes to the information quickly and efficiently.

These specified classifications exist to ensure every organization is able to utilize HIE to the full extent of their needs and desires. Improving patient care is the goal and every provider now has the digital means to make this a reality through the HIE.

Understanding the Different Architectures.

Within HIE, data is stored using three different architectural methods. These include centralized, decentralized, and hybrid.


The health information that is collected by and from the authorized organizations within the HIE network is stored in one database. This means all the important patient information can be found in one particular repository.


Each class of health records is stored in its own independent database. The healthcare providers who are part of this electronic transferring system have complete ownership and control over how this information is shared.


This is a combination of both centralized and decentralized architectures. Some healthcare organizations prefer to use a combination of both.

Through this push and pull exchange, all the necessary patient information is received by the proper organization. This seamless electronic transfer could truly make all the difference in the value of care any given patient is able to receive.

For information about HIE , please view guidance on this topic from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

« Glossary Index