WEDI-Con: Health data exchange in the industry the exception, not the rule, HIE exec says

Health data sharing, to the detriment of patient care, remains an exception in the industry rather than the rule, according to Michael Matthews, CEO of the MedVirginia and ConnectVirginia health information exchanges.

To that end, Matthews, who also serves as president and chair of the Sequoia Project, said this week at the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange's annual conference in Reston, Virginia, that information exchange must become a standard of care in order for providers to achieve optimal results.

"At its most simple, we have data suppliers and data receivers," Matthews said. "And while the concept seems simple, all the trust, all the technology, all the workflow issues that go around that have prevented health information exchange from really being as ubiquitous in healthcare as everyone would like to see it."

Matthews outlined the various ways health data currently is being exchanged--federal to private sector; payers to providers; hospital to hospital; hospital to primary care; etc.--and also discussed what the future likely holds in talking about information moving from in-home settings to primary care doctors, as well as between application program interfaces.

"Some people speculate that for us to ... connect an entire ecosystem together, that may be an API to API conversation," Matthews said.

However, he also said that widespread interoperability is especially challenging with huge sectors of the industry--such as behavioral health and long-term care providers--being left out of programs like Meaningful Use.

"HIE generally is not black or white; it's not an either-or. Think about HIEs as … shades of grey," Matthews said. "We're a lot closer to ubiquitous interoperability than we were five years ago, but we've got a long way to go."

Matthews said he's hopeful and optimistic that the Carequality initiative, which launched in February 2014, may hold some promise of being able to truly achieve bidirectional exchange between physicians.

He added that despite reports of what he referred to as EHR vendors being locked in "mortal combat" with one another, collaboration is strong and differences of opinion on matters such as standards are healthy.

"Unfortunately, a lot of this has gotten politicized as the battle of the vendors," he said.

Competing EHR vendors, earlier this month, reached consensus on an objective interoperability metric to measure data exchange and then report the findings on an ongoing basis.