Health data exchange mired in paper

Despite high levels of HIE participation, big barriers remain
By Bernie Monegain
11:00 AM
Health information exchange

Health information exchange organizations continue to rely on paper and fax to provide data among hospitals, according to a new HIMSS Analytics report released today.

The report, sponsored by ASG, examines the current state of information exchange among U.S. hospitals and explores the opportunities for improving the collection and exchange of patient data.

Here are the key findings:
• 64 percent of the HIOs reported that sharing data with hospitals not participating in an HIO was conducted via fax
• 63 percent of the same HIOs processed faxed information into an electronic format via scanning
• 84 percent of respondents directly integrated their output/print environment with their EMR/HIS system
• 42 percent of respondents characterized their output/print environment as “high effort”

Survey respondents – 157 senior hospital information technology executives – indicated that there are two major challenges in the collection and sharing of patient information despite high levels of HIE participation:

• Healthcare facilities that are participating in some form of health information exchange organization reported difficulties in exchanging patient information in robust, meaningful ways.

• Respondents indicated sharing information outside of HIOs is constrained by budget limitations and staffing resources.

More than 70 percent of respondents reported that their organization was part of a HIO, meaning that they participate in HIE with other hospitals and health systems. Approximately half of those respondents also reported improved access to patient information. However, the benefit did not result in robust data sharing, as 49 percent of the respondents cited this as the primary challenge to sharing patient information.

“Based on high participation numbers, hospitals clearly understand the value of electronic sharing of health-related information among organizations and the important role it can play in improving the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care,” said Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics. “But meaningful engagement between healthcare organizations and easy ways to share patient information, both in paper and electronic formats, still remain a challenge. We hope this new report will shed light on those issues and help IT professionals integrate their HIE strategies with their output/print environments.”

Additional data exchange difficulties were reported in the ways facilities integrate faxed and scanned documents into EHRs for data exchange, or output/print strategies.

In most instances, faxing was only one part of a broader strategy for sharing patient information. Furthermore, respondents were concerned with strategies that relied heavily on faxing, with 22 percent indicating that meaningful use would have a high impact on this way of exchanging information.

“The number one barrier to developing the ideal, integrated HIE and output/printing strategy is the fact that it falls to such a low priority in comparison to other strategic efforts,” Theresa Kollath, vice president of information management line of business for ASG Software Solutions, said in a news release.  “We are thrilled to see that HIMSS has addressed the importance of aligning both the electronic and paper record sharing systems in the study and is encouraging healthcare organizations to evaluate their overall strategy accordingly.”

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