A new study appearing in Health Affairs concludes that health data exchanges between hospitals and other healthcare providers have climbed 41 percent between 2008 to 2012, according to a report in iHealthBeat.
The study, which was led by soon-to-be-ex ONCHIT head Farzad Mostashari, analyzed data sharing outputs and the type of information exchanged by more than 2,800 hospitals over the four-year period, iHealthBeat said.
According to iHealthBeat, the study found that in 2012, 58 percent of hospitals routinely exchanged health data with providers and health systems outside their organization, and that data exchange with outside hospitals actually doubled.
It also found that 84 percent of hospitals adopting a basic EMR and participating in a RHIO shared information with providers outside of their organization during the period studied.
In addition, the proportion of hospitals adopting at least a basic EMR and participated in an HIE shot up more than 500 percent during the four years studied. And hospitals with a basic EHR participating in an HIEs had the highest rates of hospital data exchange, iHealthBeat reports.
Along with tracking the growth of health information exchange, the study tracked specific kinds of data exchanged. It found that there were large increases in the percentage of hospitals sharing clinical care summaries, lab results, medication lists and radiology reports.
This data should be music to the ears of groups coming together into large HIEs, as it suggests that hospitals are becoming engaged users of networked data. Any sign that health information exchange is becoming a mission-critical activity is a good omen.
That being said, the study doesn’t seem to get into the issue of who will sustain and pay for the HIEs in question. It could be that the hospitals are perfectly happy to take advantage of a service supported by grant money — as is very frequently the case — but won’t be up for ponying up real money when the grants expire. We’ll just have to see how deeply HIEs become ingrained into the hospitals’ workflow to see whether active HIEs are worth real money to them.