Will HIE growth have unintended consequences?

The next great challenge for health information exchanges (HIEs) may be the diversity of systems on which they operate within a state or region, according to newly released findings from the eHealth Initiative (eHI)'s 12 Annual HIE Survey. Public HIEs are concerned about compatibility and sustainability as the number of private HIEs continues to grow, eHI reported.

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The survey of 161 HIEs nationwide indicates that if public and private HIEs are operating on different systems within a given area, it will become increasingly difficult to exchange and leverage useful data to improve the quality and coordination of care in the United States, researchers said.

The eHI report said there should be a level playing field between public and private HIEs.

"If these exchanges are not able to effectively operate in conjunction with one another, we may be heading to a point where we can no longer share data," eHI researchers said. "As a result, the intention of HIEs will be defeated."

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"The primary purpose of HIEs is to provide increased access to data that allows providers to deliver safer, quicker and more cost-effective care for their patients," said Jennifer Covich Bordenick, CEO of eHI. "If competing public and private HIEs are using different operating systems and technology platforms, data cannot be adequately shared."

Survey results indicated that more research is needed to determine whether increasing competition between public and privates HIEs is a direct result of the guidelines and restrictions placed on the use of federal or state funds. Such restrictions may be contributing to the increasing number of private exchanges.

The report also noted that HIEs that have a diverse revenue base have been found over time to increase their chances of sustainability more than those that depend entirely on federal funds to operate.

The survey results can be found here.

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