GAO Criticizes HHS' Lack of HIE Goals, Milestones

HHS' plan to increase health information exchange across the country does not include enough concrete goals or milestones by which to judge progress, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

In August 2013, HHS developed a strategy document that outlined its HIE plan and guiding principles, as well as identified key stakeholders. However, "the HHS strategy does not specify any such actions, how any actions should be prioritized, what milestones the actions need to achieve or when these milestones need to be accomplished," according to the report.

The lack of direction is not helping providers and stakeholders overcome the challenges associated with data exchange, according to the report. Based on interviews with providers, payers, vendors and others, the GAO found insufficient government standards, variations in privacy rules among states, patient-matching difficulties and still-steep costs are all hindering the robust data exchange HHS had envisioned.

Having established priorities and benchmarks can help overcome these obstacles, according to the report. "Determining specific actions and exchange-related milestones with specified time frames can help to ensure that the agencies' principles and future actions result in timely improvements in addressing the key challenges reported by providers and stakeholders," states the GAO.

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10 Years of HIEs: Significant Progress, but Uncertain Future

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