HIEs leave positive mark

August 7, 2009
Tracey Walker

She is senior editor of Managed Healthcare Executive.

Activity and progress increase on the exchange of health information electronically between physicians, hospitals, plans and patients, while cost savings have been identified.

The exchange of health information electronically between physicians, hospitals, health plans and patients has increased substantially in the last year and is reducing the cost of care and positivity impacting physicians, according to a new survey released by the non-profit eHealth Initiative (eHI).

According to “Migrating Toward Meaningful Use: The State of Health Information Exchange,” a report based on eHI’s Sixth Annual Survey of Health Information Exchange, 57 health information exchange initiatives reported being operational in 2009, up from 42 initiatives in 2008, a nearly 40% increase from last year.Cost savings have been identified in a variety of areas including decreased dollars spent on redundant tests, decreased cost of care for chronic care patients and reduced medication errors.

“Organizations are starting to actually document their successes,” Jennifer Covich, eHealth Initiative COO and interim CEO. “We are finally seeing the impact of these efforts. Health information exchanges has resulted in cost savings and improved quality of practice life for many. More importantly, we are finding that these organizations are able to develop sustainable business models in a few years, and have become much less dependent on government funding after they are up and running.

“We were very pleased by the amount of activity and progress in the last year,” Covich continues. “It is positive, and we expect to see even more with the support coming from the federal government and new incentive programs for physicians.”

As in every other industry, there is a critical need to find cost savings and efficiencies and better coordinate care, according to Covich. “Second, people are finding that this actually works,” she says. “Health information technology and exchange are worth the investment. They result in greater efficiencies, cost savings and have positively impacted physicians' practice lives.”

Executives need to make sure they are documenting their successes, says Covich. “We all need to share information about what is working well. With the increased funding and focus on healthcare reform, health information technology and exchange is more important than ever. Which means they need to learn about what works for their unique community, and how they can become interoperable with other communities.”

Furthermore, getting physicians to participate is critical, she says. “So they need to support some type of implementation assistance for clinicians, and by that I don't just mean helping get an electronic medical record in the office,” Covich says. “Inevitably this is about making improvements in workflow in the office, and creating more streamlined systems of care for patients.”

View the full survey results at: http://www.ehealthinitiative.org/HIESurvey

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