Health Information Exchange – A Coming-of-Age Innovation

The future of medical service resides in the use of health information exchange (or HIE). According to a survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics, there is a shift on the horizon for doctor’s offices, and that shift will be in the realm of how health care handles the exchange of information. Many offices have yet to join such an exchange, but almost half of them expect to add an HIE feature at some point in the near future. That makes health information exchange systems an innovation that is coming of age.

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What is HIE?

Health information exchange is electronic, health-related information sharing that is secure enough for healthcare professionals to use. The utilization of this technology is moderated by the Health Information Organizations to ensure there are national standards  in place to protect confidentiality. The HIE standardized model is both patient-centric and scalable.

The goal is to engage with healthcare professionals and share data. This would allow for electronic processing of patient histories, consultation requests, and data collection for analysis by the public health departments.

What the Survey Says

The survey conducted by HIMSS asked physician practices about their plans for HIE. Forty-six percent of the survey respondents stated they intended to join an HIE in the future. The survey broke this 46 percent down even further by questioning their system preferences. Here’s what they found:

  • Nineteen percent were looking for a state exchange.
  • Sixteen percent wanted an in-hospital or healthcare system program.
  • Eleven percent would accept a regional exchange.

Another notable point is that 37 percent had no interest in this technology. Of those surveyed, 17 percent were part of an HIE service already.  

Hospital vs. Private Practice

The survey broke the group into two segments – hospital-owned and private practice. The numbers change slightly based on the business model, as is shown here:

  • Thirty-nine percent of private practices intend to join an HIE. Forty-six percent answered no.
  • Sixty-two percent of hospital-owned companies said they planed to take part in an HIE. Fourteen percent did not see this as a future option.
  • Twenty-five percent of the hospital-owned segment stated they would likely be in a hospital exchange system, but just 13 percent of the private practices planned the same.

The overall numbers were up from a similar survey conducted just a year ago.

The HIMSS study looked at other aspects of healthcare technology as well. One thing this survey shows clearly is that the healthcare industry is relying more and more on digital technology like HIE, electronic health records, and practice management systems. Overall, the study found, too, that HIE doesn’t necessarily reduce an organization’s bottom line and that HIE needs depend on size: larger hospital-owned units have different needs than the private sector.