HIE network sees record participation

By Erin McCann
11:01 AM
More healthcare organizations are moving forward with health information exchange initiatives, with one national exchange network reporting record participation numbers today. 
The eHealth Exchange, formerly the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange, and operated by Healtheway, reported in its newest survey both a surge in network participation numbers and big increases in the amount of secure online transactions among members. 
Membership in the eHealth Exchange is currently pegged at 41 participants who together represent some 800 hospitals, 6,000 mid-to-large medical groups, 800 dialysis centers and 850 retail pharmacies nationwide. Some of the earliest members to sign on with the exchange were the Veterans Health Administration, Department of Defense, Kaiser Permanente, the Social Security Administration and Dignity Health. 
"When we began this work back in 2007, we believed these types of results would one day be possible. Now that the day is here, we're even more excited about future growth potential," said Michael Matthews, president and chair of Healtheway, in a Jan. 30 news release announcing survey findings. "It's particularly gratifying to witness the increase in transactions throughout the community. Each transaction represents another process simplified, a patient better served or a doctor better informed. And this is just the beginning."
In 2013, several hundred thousand transactions were securely exchanged among eHealth Exchange members related to treatment, transitions of care and eligibility for federal benefits, officials point out. Moreover, these 41 participants pushed more than 26 million transactions to CMS related to quality data for the End Stage Renal Disease program.
The eHealth Exchange survey findings also revealed a strong pipeline of new organizations applying to join the network, with more than 60 organizations having already applied and in various stages of testing in preparation for going live. Over the next several months, officials anticipate the participation numbers to more than double, bringing the full number of members to more than 100. 
"The numbers tell a very compelling story," said Mariann Yeager, Healtheway's executive director, in a statement. "In just a few months, the eHealth Exchange is expected to connect more than 1,600 hospitals, which is more than 30 percent of the hospitals in the United States, plus 10,000 medical groups. In total, eHealth Exchange participants are expected to serve nearly 100 million patients -- almost a third of the country's population. We started off with an ambitious goal of making the eHealth Exchange a prominent and viable method for secure online e-health transactions in the nation, and these survey results indicate that we've made great strides in that direction."
Some of the benefits, as Healtheway officials point out, include the provision of a standardized way to securely share clinical information without having to establish point-to-point legal agreements and negotiate and test with every exchange partner in addition to helping satisfy Stage 2 meaningful use requirements.