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Health Information Exchange


By Phil Colpas

ith all the talk about electronic medical records and meaningful use, it’s easy to put health information exchanges (HIEs) on the back burner. But that’s not an option. Communicating in a digital healthcare world without HIEs is like trying to navigate a highway system with no freeways.

Karen Friedrich, vice president of strategic alliances for Carefx, says, “HIEs are designed to provide a complete end-to-end view of patient information for clinicians [who] are caring for these patients and making decisions affecting their health.”

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Karen Friedrich ffi h it l

In a perfect world, HIEs would facili- tate the sharing of data between doctors’


offi ces, hospitals and laboratories; everyone would share records, and security levels would be determined by the level of data needing to be exchanged. These free- fl owing, robust sharing systems would allow proprietary LIS, PACS, EHRs – and more – from different vendors to communicate with one another.

But if there’s one thing upon which we can all agree: This world is far from perfect. Motivated by a govern- mental push, HIEs are happening, and it’s up to the vendors and end-users to fi gure out how to best facilitate the process. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, $548 million was granted under the State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program, disbursed through cooperative agreements and awarded on a rolling basis in February and March 2010. $386 million was given to 40 states, territories and SDEs on February 12, 2010. The remaining funds were allocated to 16 states, territories and SDEs on March 15, 2010. The cooperative agree- ments are for four years. For our July issue, Health Management Technology reached out to several experts, vendors and end-users to get their take on some of the major issues involved with HIE implementation.

8 July 2010 The true value of HIEs

It’s easy to get caught up in all the data-centric techno-speak, but, says Pam Arlotto, president and CEO of Maestro Strategies and author of the book, “Be- yond Return on Investment: Expanding the Value of HIT,” it’s important to keep in mind the reason for transitioning to HIEs in the fi rst place: “The value will come not from the technology but from the use of the information to improve outcomes, design new care- delivery models and reduce the cost of patient care. “As the ‘information cloud’ becomes more pervasive during stage two and stage three of meaningful-use deployment, applications will be created to sit on the ‘cloud,’ extracting information content and context based on the specifi c needs of the end-user – and innovation will fl ourish,” Arlotto relates. “Both technology vendors and healthcare providers will have to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.”

Pam Arlotto

So, although it doesn’t make all the logistical issues any easier to deal with, it may help to focus on the eventual goal of HIEs: a more effi cient, streamlined healthcare system with improved outcomes and better patient care.

To translate, or not to translate: That is the question As anyone even tangentially involved with the imple- mentation or operation of proprietary IT solutions knows, interoperability between systems has become a huge issue. But will that issue continue to worsen, leading to an even larger number of “translators” on the HIE horizon?


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Elliot Menschik, MD, PhD, general manager of provider markets for ME- Decision, says no: “EHR/EMR and other clinical applications are currently on a rapid path to enable their users to achieve federal mean- ingful use (MU) standards, which we expect will provide

id h Elliot Menschik



Government incentives are underscoring the push for a national transition to health information exchanges. Our experts weigh in on some of the issues surrounding the implementation of HIEs.

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