Health Data Sharing Varies Widely From State To State

Posted on November 4, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A new report from the CDC concludes that many physicians have interacted with shared health data, though only a small percentage of them had checked off all of the boxes by sending, receiving, integrating and searching for patient health data from other providers. The study also found that data sharing practices varied widely from state to state.

According to the CDC data, 38.2% of office-based physicians had sent data electronically to their peers in 2015. A nearly identical amount (39.3%) had received data, 31.1% integrated such data and 34% has searched such data from other providers.

On the other hand, physicians’ data interactions seem to have been somewhat limited. The CDC indicated that just 8.7% of office-based doctors had performed all four of these data sharing activities, a level which suggests that few are completely comfortable with such exercises.

Another striking aspect to the data was that it laid out the extent to which physicians in different states had different levels of data sharing activity.

For example, it found that in 2015, physicians fell below the national average for sending patient data in Idaho (19.4%), Connecticut (22.7%) and New Jersey (24.3%). In another anomaly, 56.3% of physicians in Arizona had sent information electronically other providers, a figure well above the 38.2% national average, with Idaho at the bottom of the range.

Meanwhile, the percentage of physicians who had received information electronically from other providers fell below the national average of 38.3% in Louisiana (23.6%), Mississippi (23.6%), Missouri (24.2%) and Alabama (24.3%). States where physicians exceeded the average for receiving information included Massachusetts (52.9%), Minnesota (55%), Oregon (59.2%) in Wisconsin (66.5%).

Where things get particularly interesting is when we look at the states were physicians had integrated electronic patient information they had received into their health data systems, a significantly more advanced step than sending or receiving data.

States that fell below the 31.1% average of physicians during such integration include Alaska (18.4%), the District of Columbia (18.6%), Montana (18.6%), Alabama (18.8%) and Idaho (20.6%). States that performed above the national average included Indiana (44.2%) and Delaware (49.3%).

Also worth noting was the diverse levels to which physicians had searched for patient health information from other providers, a data point which might suggest how much confidence they had in finding data. (Physicians who felt interoperability wasn’t serving them might not bother to search after all.)

The study found that while the average level of physicians who searched was 34%, several states fell below that average, including the District of Columbia (15.1%), Mississippi (19.7%), Pennsylvania (20.8%), Texas (21%), Missouri (21.6%) and Oklahoma (22.8%).

On the other hand, 10 states boasted a higher level physicians who searched than the national average. These included Ohio (47.2%), Alaska (47.3%, Colorado (47.5%), Maryland (47.9%), Virginia (48.3%), North Carolina (48.8%), Delaware (53.9%), Wisconsin (54.1%), Washington (58%) and Oregon (61.2%).

If it’s true that integrating and searching for data indicate higher levels of faith in the ability to use shared data, this actually looks like an encouraging report. Clearly, we have a long way to go, but substantial numbers of physicians are engaging in shared data use. To me this looks like progress.