Despite challenges, disruption, experts sunny on HIE market

In spite of turmoil, the health information exchange (HIE) market grew more than 40 percent in 2011, according to a Chilmark Research report.

"In little over a year we have seen several vendors exit the market, several others enter and the acquisitions of Carefx by Harris and MobileMD by Siemens. We also saw Microsoft pull completely out of the clinical market by turning over all its HIT assets (except HealthVault) to the new joint venture with GE, Caradigm," Chilmark notes in a post about the report.

Only a small portion of that growth was a result of the HITECH Act and statewide HIE efforts. Instead, "literally all" HIE vendors are targeting the private enterprise market. "Healthcare organizations ... of all sizes are now looking to deploy HIE technology to not only meet Meaningful Use requirements, but respond to the pending changes in reimbursement, moving from a fee for service model to one that is based on outcomes," according to Chilmark.

That means that even though federal HIE funding will soon dry up, the market should continue to thrive, according to the firm.

"We're on the verge of turning the corner on HIE," Claudia Williams, director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's (ONC) state HIE program, said during a National eHealth Collaborative webinar, reports HealthImaging. "The building blocks put in place by the HITECH Act help everyone see where exchange fits into the broader set of goals we all share. We've made incredible progress in a short amount of time. Information exchange should take off in 2012."

However, Williams warned, there are still several challenges to HIEs, including the fact that there's not a lot of data being exchanged. Williams said 27 percent of hospital discharge summaries get to primary care providers within 48 hours, according to the article. And despite the relatively low volume of information exchange, the cost is "often higher than we would like," she added.

Others have pointed out that the government's power to accelerate HIE is limited, however. Barriers to successful information exchange include privacy and security concerns and the exclusion of providers other than eligible professionals and hospitals from the Meaningful Use electronic health record incentive program.

ONC hopes to help build multiple but complementary models of exchange in order to overcome some of the challenges, Williams said during the ONC webcast.

To learn more:
- read a summary of the Chilmark Research report
- purchase the report
- see the HealthImaging article