Survey: HIEs Progressing, But Still Face Challenges

Eighty-four organizations that exchange healthcare data have reached advanced stages of operation, sustainability or innovation, according to a recent survey by the eHealth Initiative.

The organization identified 315 data exchange initiatives for its 2013 annual survey, 199 of which responded. They included a mix of community and statewide HIEs as well as other healthcare organizations that exchange data.

More than 100 of respondents indicated that they offer connectivity to EHRs, health summaries for continuity of care, a master patient index and results delivery to other healthcare organizations.

The number of respondents that engage patients in their data exchange, however, weren’t nearly as promising.

For example, while 31 responding organizations indicated that they offer patients the ability to access their information, only 17 reported that patients can provide data to their exchange. Further, only 24 enable patients to make appointments though the exchange and 25 enable them to request medication refills.

Many of the HIEs did indicate that they were planning to support healthcare reform by enabling other data exchange capabilities. For example, 102 said they will offer patients access to their data in the future, while others said they plan to offer alerts to providers (83), use analytics (74), and offer image exchange (69).

Respondents also indicated, however, that they continue to face myriad challenges to their data exchange goals.

“As health data initiatives evolve in 2013 and beyond, it will be critical for community stakeholders, healthcare organizations and policymakers to address emerging challenges – particularly in light of federal funding and support winding down,” according to the survey.

Interoperability, for one, was a major challenge for many organizations that responded to the survey. For example, 151 indicated they have had to build multiple interfaces with disparate systems, 32 of which said they have had to create interfaces with more than 25 different systems. And among those organizations that responded to both the 2011 and 2013 surveys, 10 more indicated that interoperability was a challenge this past year.

Additionally, the survey found that while hospitals and ambulatory care providers are the stakeholders most commonly providing and viewing data, sharing data with competing organizations was another challenge. For example, 33 respondents indicated that their data exchange efforts were restricted to entities within a network, while 58 have not connected with other networks, such as a community HIE or eHealth Exchange.