Study: Physician mergers, private networks won't hurt HIEs

Public community and state health information exchanges (HIEs) will still be useful even if physicians and other providers to merge into larger, more private networks.

That's the conclusion of a new study of care transition data from 10 Massachusetts communities conducted by the Rand Corporation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others, published this week in Health Affairs. The researchers speculated that the pressure to join accountable care organizations may cause physician groups to merge and support private data sharing networks, rather than public HIEs, which focus on the exchange of patient data among independent providers.

The study revealed that there would have to be "many" such mergers to undermine the potential utility of HIEs.

However, the picture wasn't completely rosy. For the HIEs to be effective, they still need to attract participants, the researchers cautioned.

"Because hospitals and the largest medical groups account for only 10 to 20 percent of care transitions in a community, information exchanges will still need to recruit a large proportion of the medical groups in a given community for the exchanges to maintain their usefulness in fostering information exchange across independent providers," the authors said.

There has been some speculation that public HIEs have been falling to the wayside in the wake of the rise of private HIEs within health care organizations. This study corroborates that while HIEs still have challenges, they are still an important part of the health IT landscape.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read this article in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association

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