Survey: Health exchanges get attention on all levels

Exchanging health information electronically and working on policies to improve health care is getting a lot of attention at the state, regional and community levels.

These are some of the results from a newly released survey of health information exchanges, which was issued at the third annual Health IT Summit sponsored by the eHealth Initiative in Washington earlier this week.

The analysis looked at responses from 165 participants in the health information exchange initiatives in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Health information exchange (HIE), as defined by the eHealth Initiative, is the sharing of health care information electronically across organizational lines.

Some of the key findings from the survey include:
  • Policy activity is increasing ' 24 state legislatures passed 36 bills seeking to improve health care.

  • Policy development, planning and HIE implementation is happening at the state, local and community levels. But each level is focusing on different components of the policies.

  • HIE initiatives are coming of age. Of the 165 initiatives recognized, 45 are in the implementation stage, and 26 are fully operational.

  • HIE efforts are focusing on services created to assist care delivery processes ' clinical documentation, results delivery, consultation/referral, electronic referral processing and alerts to providers.

  • More than 20 percent of respondents are exchanging clinical data.

  • HIE efforts are offering services focused on quality improvements ' providing disease or chronic care management services, quality performance reporting for purchasers or payers, and quality improvement reporting back to providers.

  • More stakeholders are becoming involved in exchanges, including hospitals, health plans, employers and primary care physicians.

  • HIE efforts are increasing attempts to connect with physicians, hospital systems, medical societies, quality improvement organizations and health plans ' and direct visits or phone calls are all part of the effort.

  • Users are offering resources to fund ongoing HIE efforts. Along with the federal government, hospitals, payers, physician practices and laboratories are providing financial backing to pay HIE costs.

While much is being done to move HIE forward, there still are challenges ahead, eHealth Initiative officials said. Receiving monetary backing for continued initiatives and getting those initiatives to take root and grow into viable business models are areas of concern for the future, officials added.

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