AHRQ updates HIE evaluation guide

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has updated its handbook on health information exchange (HIE) assessment to help those involved in HIE development. The book, entitled "Guide to Evaluating Health Information Exchange Projects," describes what's needed to evaluate an HIE project and develop a realistic evaluation plan, such as review of the HIE's impact on healthcare, data exchange processes and potential consequences of data exchange. The guide is comprised of six sections:

  • Selecting an evaluation team
  • characterizing the project's goals and objectives
  • Assessing the financial and clinical value of HIE
  • developing an evaluation plan
  • Disseminating the evaluation plan
  • Choosing evaluation measures

"An HIE project evaluation can serve multiple important purposes," the guide states. "The evaluation can be a continuous process that serves to guide the HIE project and provide a thoughtful assessment of the HIE project's impact on healthcare. Findings from the evaluation can guide the data exchange process as a whole, thus improving the quality of data exchange and increasing the likelihood of intended positive outcomes.

"The findings also can point to barriers or unanticipated consequences of implementing the HIE project, and guide efforts to address such issues," the guide continues. "An evaluation also can help assess the longer term clinical and financial impacts of an HIE project, and demonstrate return on investment. Your evaluation has the greatest likelihood of significant impact."

Interoperability is one of the cornerstones of the Meaningful Use program, and HIEs are seen as the primary means to exchange data. However, many have expressed concern that current EHRs are ill equipped to handle the task. The American Medical Association has gone so far as to urge the Meaningful Use penalties be dropped due to lack of interoperability among EHR systems. Those penalties are set to kick in as of 2015.

To learn more:
- access the guide