Hospitals Still Struggling With HIE Data Sharing

Posted on September 30, 2013 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 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.

Hospitals are trying hard to make HIEs work, but establishing robust data exchange remains a major challenge, particularly given the difficulty involved in processing paper records, a new study by HIMSS Analytics suggests.

The report, sponsored by ASG Software Solutions, draws on a survey of 157 senior hospital IT executives.

More than 70 percent of respondents to the survey reported that they participated in an HIE with other hospitals and health systems.

The thing is, the facilities reported that they’re having difficulty exchanging patient information in meaningful, powerful ways. Also, survey respondents noted that sharing information outside of HIEs is held back by budget concerns and staffing problems.

Juggling electronic and paper-based data is still a major issue, the study suggests:

* 64 percent of health information organizations reported that they shared data with nonparticipating hospitals via fax
* 63 percent of the same organizations converted faxed information into digital form via scanning
* 84 percent of respondents integrated their output/print environment directly into their EMR/HIS system
* 42 percent of survey respondents said their output/print environment was “high effort”

Unfortunately for HIE fans, coordination and management of paper records is far from the only issue standing in the way of making them work acceptably in a hospital environment.

According to a study by Chilmark Research, the focus of most HIEs is still on secure clinical messaging, which doesn’t do the job for cross-enterprise care coordination. The Chilmark research estimates that queries of databases for patient information needed at the point of care account for just 2 percent to 10 percent of HIE transactions overall.

As Chilmark CEO John Moore recently told Information Week, the problem is particularly acute in ambulatory care. Most ambulatory EMRs haven’t been able to generate CCDs that other EMRs can consume or execute queries using a record locator service. This is a pretty serious weakness in the HIE space, given that 80 percent of care takes place in ambulatory setting.

Given their importance, it’s troubling to see how many obstacles remain to robust HIE use by hospitals and physicians. Let’s hope the next 12 months see some breakthroughs.