HIEs Must Shift From Health Data Sharing To Curating And Analyzing Data

After years of evolving and struggling to find a solid business model, HIEs have finally found a reasonably secure place in the healthcare system. The thing is, the job they’ve learned to do – serving as an exchange point for any and all data coming their way – may already be outmoded, according to Claudia Williams, CEO of California-based HIE Manifest MedEx.

In an article for Stat News, Williams argues that the problems involved in exchanging data efficiently have largely been solved, in part by the emergence of new API standards. Now, she says, HIEs need to step up and take on an active role in making sense of this data.  She contends that HIEs need to offer new capabilities, including the following:

  • HIEs should identify patterns and problems from within data that might not be visible to clinicians and public health officials looking at just their own organization’s results. For example, she notes, Cincinnati’s Health Collaborative tells physicians how much radiation patients had already been exposed to, information which can help them weigh the potential risks involved with further imaging studies.
  • HIEs should integrate data from diverse sources to derive valuable insights. At Manifest MedEx, along with New York’s Healthix, they aggregate and integrate insurance claims and clinical data for more than 40 million patients combined, she writes. By doing so, they can generate information useful to clinicians and population health teams, such as predicting which patients are at an elevated risk of a hospital stay or readmission.
  • By pulling together needed patient records, HIEs can help providers meet their quality data reporting obligations. At the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, for example, they’re helping physicians in 34 states extract data from their EHRs which they can use to provide data on quality measures.
  • Because they are experts at meeting the day-to-day requirements of health data exchange, HIEs are in a great position to shape data sharing policies at the national and state level, as well as educating partners on future concerns, Williams says.

I suspect most providers would be thrilled to have an HIE offer value-added services like these. While physicians and hospitals are well aware that floods of raw data aren’t that helpful in improving care, many are still struggling to tame data on previous patient encounters, much less predict future priorities.

That being said, my guess is that few HIEs are quite ready to deliver advanced analytics services themselves, given the complexity and cost of such efforts. I can certainly see them sharing their knowledge and experience, as well as helping providers lobby for government policies that support data sharing and analysis, but in most cases, I doubt they’re far ahead of their clients when it comes to analytics.

I’d love to be proven wrong about this, though. and if anyone can help providers navigate the data rapids, I’m sure providers would love to hear more about it. HIEs, are you ready to take things to the next level?

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.

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