Hospitals Still Struggling With HIE Data Sharing

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.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

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.


  • Organizations need a robust way to test data interchange in order to make it work. To do this, since they should not use real PHI, they can mock up data or make use of data de-identification software so that PHI is consistently de-identified across all participants who are attempting to share data. In this way they can uncover problems much further up the development life cycle where they are easier to fix.

  • […] Health leaders are  interested in connecting up with other organizations — an interest documented by several studies — but many aren’t moving ahead. HIE expansion is proceeding slowly for a number of reasons, not the least of which are concerns about HIE costs and the great difficulty in establishing interoperable data streams. […]

  • Organizations are still having the same problems that the ObamaCare Website is having….. Proper Testing. Members of an HIE must be able to test with de-identified data which is consistent across all members of an HIE before they can have confidence that their data sharing will work.

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