4 Health Information Exchange Trends to Watch

Health information exchange is becoming increasingly more important as a higher percentage of hospitals attests to meaningful use of electronic health records and begins to prepare for meaningful use stage 2. By connecting healthcare providers across a range of locations, HIE has the potential to aid transitions of care, reduce duplication and improve population health. Colin Barry, CEO of health information systems provider MEDfx, discusses four current HIE trends that will affect hospitals and healthcare delivery networks in 2012.

1. Growth of the NwHIN. The Nationwide Health Information Network is a set of standards for the secure electronic exchange of health information. The use of the NwHIN is gaining ground as hospitals, health systems and payors continue to look for ways to share data. In Oct. 2011, the South East Michigan Health Information Exchange went live on the NwHIN, joining a 20-member group of federal agencies and non-federal partners to facilitate the communication of disability claims between providers and the Social Security Administration. Mr. Barry says the NwHIN "facilitates the emergence of new sustainability models derived by value delivered through a connected national healthcare ecosystem."

2. Access to test results. As hospitals and health systems seek ways to cut costs, they are turning to HIE to prevent duplication of procedures and related ancillary services. Hospitals can reduce duplicate testing by sharing test results among caregivers through HIE. "Providing imaging results from a radiology department, for instance, can help a health system avoid ordering multiple tests, saving thousands and in some cases up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually," Mr. Barry says.

3. Adoption of connected healthcare solutions. Another way hospitals are using HIE is to coordinate transitions of care through connected healthcare solutions. This enables caregivers to share important clinical information for patients who transition across sites of care. This communication supports the reduction of costs and improvement of quality of care by reducing avoidable and expensive hospital readmissions. "The industry as a whole is looking for available and actionable health information to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs," Mr. Barry says.

One of the drivers of increased adoption of connected healthcare solutions is the shift to global payments, according to Mr. Barry. "New reimbursement models require providers to manage increased financial risk, which can be mitigated by the use of technology and the availability of shared health information," he says.

4. Expansion of HIE.
HIE can help hospitals manage population health by analyzing data from multiple sources. The expansion of HIE throughout regions and states can increase the amount of data available to hospitals, aiding providers in clinical decision-making. For instance, Mr. Barry says HIE could be used to manage an outbreak of a virus. Communicating information about the virus to federal agencies can allow them to determine where outbreaks are occurring and can provide the toolset to support more timely decision-making processes that in turn directly impact hospitals' ability to prevent the spread of disease.

Over time, HIE will continue to move beyond state and regional levels to optimize the amount of data accessible to healthcare providers, Mr. Barry says. As a first step for healthcare organizations, he says hospitals can become engaged in a participatory role with HIE initiatives underway at the state or regional level.

Learn more about MEDfx.

Related Articles on Health Information Exchanges:

North Hawaii Community Hospital Receives Nearly 700K to Begin HIE
DC Looks to Contractors to Build Simpler Health Information Exchange

8 NJ Hospitals Prepare to Share Medical Data Via Statewide Health Information Exchange

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