Health information exchange sustainability outlined by new report

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Health information exchanges (HIEs) have been a significant part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ healthcare IT initiatives. However, some states are still struggling to implement such systems due to the substantial financial and infrastructural considerations of these projects. A new report published by research consultancy IDC Health Insights highlights the economic sustainability of HIEs across the country.

The study, titled “Best Practices: Establishing Sustainable Health Information Exchange,” highlights the disparities experienced between comparable HIE projects by various healthcare organizations throughout the U.S.

Key findings of the report suggest that sound financial planning needs to be a part of a health information organization’s (HIOs) strategy from the outset, not an afterthought during later stages of the project.

“Too many HIOs have relied on the ‘build and they will come’ strategy,” Lynne Dunbrack, program director at IDC Health Insights and author of the report, said in a statement. “Instead, HIOs must plan for sustainability from the very beginning. If the HIO will not be sustainable after the initial funding, then careful consideration should be given to whether to launch the HIO in the first place.”

The obstacles outlined in the report have been identified by other studies. According to Information Week, a new paper published by the National eHealth Collaborative suggests that, despite investments of more than $564 million in federal funding, many HIE initiatives have failed to make any significant progress.

Chris Muir, state HIE project manager for the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT, told the news source that, in many areas, a lack of suitable healthcare IT infrastructure is partly responsible for the lack of HIE adoption. He added that in areas where sufficient hardware is in place, many healthcare providers are failing to take advantage of HIE services due to usability and workflow issues.