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6 Secrets To A Successful Health Information Exchange

Many health information exchanges have had a hard time remaining in business, but a new report from the National eHealth Collaborative spotlights winning strategies.
"Once the major two competing [healthcare provider] entities joined from a data sharing perspective, it was easy to get the other hospitals and providers in the area" to join, said Mike Smyly, chief business development officer of Inland Northwest Health Services [INHS], a HIE based in Washington state and one of the 12 organizations spotlighted by NeHC.

Having the two big competing entities finally feel comfortable about sharing data made it easier for others in the region to see value in joining INHS, said Smyly during a NeHC webinar this week discussing the NeHC report. "It became more of a value equation for new folks joining," he said. "Once we got over the hump, it was great."

3 -- HIEs need to maintain brand identity and their role as a trusted, neutral, reliable entity--both in terms of data use and data integrity. HIEs should have cultures, policies, and procedures that assure that no stakeholders will gain a competitive advantage at the expense of others. Meanwhile, policies and procedures regarding sensitive issues such as patient consent must meet the requirements of the various stakeholders, who in some cases are located in different states.

However at the same time, patient consent also happens to be among the top barriers that HIE face. So, many HIEs have found it's easier to have patients consent to opt out, rather than opt in, to having their health data exchanged via the HIE.

Meanwhile, the HIE's tech infrastructure and operations must ensure that patient info is reliable, accurate, and securely accessible when needed.

4 -- HIEs need to understand the clinical workflow of their stakeholders, including integrating HIE applications into those workflows so that patient data is easy to access and view. That could include, for example, limiting the number of steps it takes emergency room doctors to quickly access pertinent info available from the HIE about patients brought into the ER.

5 -- HIEs with sustainable business models typically have providers pay subscription fees (rather than transactional fees) to help cover operational costs. Also, getting participation and payment from payers helps long-term sustainability, especially since the payers are the stakeholders who will probably benefit most from avoiding the costs of unnecessary tests and medical errors that can be prevented when providers have access to more timely, complete patient data at point of care.

6 -- HIE should consider participating in the Nationwide Health Information Network, which enables data exchange with federal health-related agencies, such as the VA, Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Beacon Communities. Five of the HIEs spotlighted in the NeHC report participate in NHIN, and three others plan to do so. Many of those same HIEs have also implemented support for the NHIN's Direct Project. However some successful HIEs are concerned that the Direct Project could fragment overall HIE progress toward widespread interoperability. That's because the Direct Project focuses on secure point-to-point data exchange among providers.

For more insights and "secrets" to running an HIE, be sure to read the full NeHC report.

Find out how health IT leaders are dealing with the industry's pain points, from allowing unfettered patient data access to sharing electronic records. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: There needs to be better e-communication between technologists and clinicians. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing