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Please, No More HIE “Coming Of Age” Stories

Posted on September 29, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Today I read a Modern Healthcare story suggesting that health information exchanges are “coming of age,” and after reading it, I swear my eyes almost rolled back into my head. (An ordinary eye roll wouldn’t do.)

The story leads with the assertion that a new health data sharing deal, in which Texas Health Resources agreed to share data via a third-party HIE, suggests that such HIEs are becoming sustainable.

Author Joseph Conn writes that the 14-hospital system is coming together with 32 other providers sending data to Healthcare Access San Antonio, an entity which supports roughly 2,400 HIE users and handles almost 2.2 million patient records. He notes that the San Antonio exchange is one of about 150 nationwide, hardly a massive number for a country the size of the U.S.

In partial proof of his assertion that HIEs are finding their footing, he notes that that from 2010 to 2015, the number of HIEs in the U.S. fluctuated but saw a net gain of 41%, according to federal stats. And he attributes this growth to pressure on providers to improve care, lower costs and strengthen medical research, or risk getting Medicare or Medicaid pay cuts.

I don’t dispute that there is increased pressure on providers to meet some tough goals. Nor am I arguing that many healthcare organizations believe that healthcare data sharing via an HIE can help them meet these goals.

But I would argue that even given the admittedly growing pressure from federal regulators to achieve certain results, history suggests that an HIE probably isn’t the way to get this done, as we don’t seem to have found a business model for them that works over the long term.

As Conn himself notes, seven recipients of federal, state-wide HIE grants issued by the ONC — awarded in Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico and Wyoming — went out of business after the federal grants dried up. So were not talking about HIEs’ ignoble history of sputtering out, we’re talking about fairly recent failures.

He also notes that a commercially-funded model, MetroChicago HIE, which connected more than 30 northeastern Illinois hospitals, went under earlier this year. This HIE failed because its most critical technology vendor suddenly went out of business with 2 million patient records in its hands.

As for HASA, the San Antonio exchange discussed above, it’s not just a traditional HIE. Conn’s piece notes that most of the hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have already implemented or plan to use an Epic EMR and share clinical messages using its information exchange capabilities. Depending on how robust the Epic data-sharing functions actually are, this might offer something of a solution.

But what seems apparent to me, after more than a decade of watching HIEs flounder, is that a data-sharing model relying on a third-party platform probably isn’t financially or competitively sustainable.

The truth is, a veteran editor like Mr. Conn (who apparently has 35 years of experience under his belt) must know that his reporting doesn’t sustain the assertion that HIEs are coming into some sort of golden era. A single deal undertaken by even a large player like Texas Health Resources doesn’t prove that HIEs are seeing a turnaround. It seems that some people think the broken clock that is the HIE model will be right at least once.

P.S.  All of this being said, I admit that I’m intrigued by the notion of  “public utility” HIE. Are any of you associated with such a project?

EHR and Encryption, Down Computers and EHR, and State Health Exchanges Might Not Be Sustainable

Posted on November 13, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Time again for our weekend EHR Twitter round up. Let the fun begin.

@ahier – Brian Ahier
#EHR’s need encryption says @HealthPrivacy to Senate panel bitly.com/rTnx6s

Is there an EHR software that doesn’t use encryption? Is there a doctor’s office that’s paying for an EHR that doesn’t use encryption? Certainly not all EHR encryption implementations are created equal. In fact, I wish that things like encrypting data were part of an EHR certification. Why? Cause that’s something you can actually certify in a meaningful manner.

@drmikesevilla – Mike Sevilla, MD
RT @SeattleMamaDoc Computers all down in the exam rooms today. One major limitation of an EMR/EHR (dependence on a computer)

Definitely is one challenge with an EMR/EHR. I wonder how many patients were seen without the chart, because it couldn’t be found quickly. There are always pros and cons to IT. It does highlight the need to have a well thought out plan for how you’re going to care for patients when your EHR is down.

@iWatch – iWatch News
State health exchanges might not be sustainable after $548M in stimulus money runs out: bit.ly/t9QfSl #HIE #EHR

Wait, so changing the name of them from RHIO to HIE didn’t solve any of the problems with these exchanges? Oh yes, I forgot to mention the extra $548 million to help solve the problems. I think this best illustrates that money isn’t the issue or at least there are more issues with HIE than just the money.

Real Participation in RHIO and HIE

Posted on November 28, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Everyone seems to love talking about RHIO, HIE and all of the other various initiatives happening around sharing patient health information amongst doctors. This weekend, I want to open it up to you the readers to get an idea of what type of participation you’ve had in an RHIO, HIE or other clinical data exchange.

Are you participating in one now? Do you like it? Do you hate it? In fact, what do you like and what do you hate? Do you use an EMR to interface with the exchange? What’s the interface like? How much work is it to manage the interface?

I’d also be interested in hearing about people who are working through the process now. Where are you at in the process? What’s holding you up from making this happen?

Let’s help educate each other on what’s happening with something that I think we can all universally agree is important and INCREDIBLY challenging.

Free Health Information Exchange – HIE

Posted on August 31, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of my readers pointed out that NaviNet was offering their Health Information Exchange (HIE) solution to state governments for free. Here’s a short part of the press release:

NaviNet (formerly NaviMedix), America’s largest real-time healthcare communications network, today announced the NaviNet Health Information Exchange (HIE), a solution that combines the NaviNet Provider Network of more than 770,000 providers nationwide, and NaviNet technology and services. The NaviNet HIE is now available to all state governments and U.S. territories at no cost, enabling more efficient implementation and expansion of local health data exchange. Adoption of NaviNet HIE minimizes technology investment requirements, providing states and territories a rapid and cost-effective way to offer their own branded health information exchange to electronically connect physicians, hospitals, insurers and existing HIEs in their regions. NaviNet is already used by two out of every three U.S. healthcare providers, and leading national, commercial and Blues health plans, resulting in significant costs savings to the industry.

I always find it interesting when someone starts offering something for free. I always have to ask myself the question of why they would offer it for free. I don’t know NaviNet that well, but it seems like this free offering is 2 fold. First, it seems like they probably want to sell the HIE to people other than government. Second, I think that they probably want participants in the HIE to also use NaviNet’s billing services.

What’s really interesting to me also is that it seems like NaviNet is basically a billing company (although, I don’t know them that well). I find this really interesting since I’ve often seen the argument that we’ve been exchanging billing information electronically in healthcare for a while. Since this is the case, many people have wondered why we couldn’t also exchange other healthcare information. Is this offering from NaviNet, the realization of this principle?

Free EMR has been going well for a while. We’ll see how Free HIE goes.

Challenge of Storing and Sharing EMR Data

Posted on June 15, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today, I came across the best description I’ve seen of the difficulty of storing healthcare information and also making that information shareable with another EMR in a way that is meaningful.

Longitudinal patient information is arguably one of the most temporally and spatially complex information sets known. Certainly GIS and others are complex as well but the science of medicine and therefore healthcare is constantly changing creating a moving context. To understand how to treat a patient the healthcare provider needs to be able to understand what has worked as well as what hasn’t worked in the context of what was known about the patient and the treatments available at any point in time. This creates an environment of very complex data relationships. If any one of those relationships are broken then the semantic context of the data is lost and now there is a loss of information. Data items need to be bundled and stored as a complete unit of understanding for them to constitute information. Once broken apart into separate data items they are much like Humpty Dumpty.

Certainly the above description describes the challenge of storing and sharing both the healthcare information and the context of that healthcare information. I still can’t help but think that we need to simplify our goals for EMR data sharing into small achievable goals.

The above description also kind of reminds me of my previous post about the “Body of Medical Knowledge Too Complex for the Human Mind.” The description above reinforces this challenge as well.

Still Far from Healthcare Interoperability

Posted on April 23, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I think that anyone that is in this industry had to be struck by the story of ePatientDave pulling his medical history into Google Health (see my previous ePatientDave post). It’s not that we didn’t already know that it was a problem. I think that most in the medical industry know the problems associated with our data right now. However, I feel like we’re all (including myself) in a little bit of denial about this fact. The story of ePatientDave just painted a picture of how bad the data really is going to be.

The takeaway I have from ePatientDave’s experience is that we’re still a long way from having interoperable patient records. In fact, it makes my previous post about ICD-10 and EHR interoperability even more significant. Not to mention the need to simplify Health Information Exchanges.

Honestly, if we don’t simplify I’m not sure we’re going to get any of this healthcare data exchanged in my lifetime.

Simplification of Health Information Exchanges and EHR

Posted on April 8, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A lot of talk has been done lately on the importance of interoperability of EHR software. Many people point to health information exchanges when talking about this EHR interoperability. I must admit that almost all of the interoperability and health information exchange discussions I’ve seen recently leave me lost. Maybe I’m just not that smart, but I also think it’s possible that people are trying to bite off more than they can chew.

I’d like to see a simplified method for exchanging health information. Let’s break it down into bite size increments where we can actually have achievable goals and solvable problems. For example, let’s start with something like prescriptions, allergies or labs. Let’s get those right and then add on top of those functioning standards.

I previously posted the comparison of the Transcontinental Railroad to EHR interoperability. The reason it was so successful with the railroad was because they only had to standardize the gauge of the railroad. We should apply that same type of simplicity to exchanging patient information and we’ll see better results.