Study: Health Data Exchange Advances

By Stacy Lawrence
Although more health care organizations are becoming enabled to transmit records electronically internally and within a regional network, a recent survey indicates that not many have the capability up and running.

Less than one-quarter of health information professionals surveyed identified their organizations as having a fully functional health information exchange system, according to a recent study conducted by the non-profit eHealth Initiative Foundation. The remaining institutions were almost equally split between working to implement electronic health information exchange and still being in the early stages of discussion and seeking funding.

The key motivator in pushing health care institutions to pursue electronic records exchange was a concern about "provider inefficiency due to lack of data to support patient care." More than three-quarters of respondents saw this as a significant concern. Rising health care costs helped to spur six out of 10 of them to action, while the availability of grant funding for health data exchange, increased national attention and the potential for improving public health each encouraged around 30 to 40 percent of respondents to action.

Most of the health information professionals surveyed also indicated that their institutions have a fierce concern for patient privacy. Most of the efforts that are fully operational reported that their policies regarding privacy go beyond federal HIPAA requirements.

Another key to success is integrating multiple stake-holders into the process, including providers, purchasers and payers rather than simply relying on the resources of a single health care institution. Most of the functional health information exchange programs have many stake-holders, while seven out of 10 of them are non-profit models.

The survey included 109 health information exchange efforts to gauge their progress and innovation. The study was supported by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Read the full study results at the eHealth Initiative site

This article was originally published on 08-31-2005