HIE Waste

In a post on LinkedIn, David Angove offered this comment on government HIE funding:

The biggest waste of the new program I’ve seen is the HIE (Health Information Exchange) part. It got much more money than the EHR/MU part (5-10 times) and much of it ended up in the pockets of universities who just absorbed it as personal funding. Just look to see how many HIEs are actually functional in the US now almost 4 years after the grants were awarded. Most of the working HIEs were done by private groups who got tired of waiting for the groups who got all the grant money to do something.

It should be clear that David’s comparing the money spent on HIE’s as compared with RECs (he refers to it as EHR/MU). If you take in the larger EHR incentive money that doctors will receive, then it blows the HIE portion of the funding away.

Instead of focusing on the comparable amounts, I think the question of whether the HIE money the government put out as part of ARRA and the HITECH Act has been generally a waste. I started to think through the successful HIE projects out there. David’s right that the most successful ones I know of (see Indiana’s HIE, Maine’s HIE, and Arizona’s HIE) would have happened regardless of whether the government money came. Does anyone know of government funded HIEs that are seeing success and wouldn’t have without the government money?

The hard part of this question is that we’re not likely to know exactly how well the HIE funding has gone until we see how many HIEs survive post government funding.

Related to this was how many hospital CIOs I’ve talked to that don’t believe that HIE is the future of health information exchange. As one hospital CIO told me, he didn’t think that the HIE was a viable model. Instead he suggested that point to point exchange of information is going to be the winner when it comes to exchanging health information. Considering the issues related to HIE, I have a hard time arguing against that thought.