Health information exchanges rise to 57

Fifty-seven community-based health information exchanges are operating, up from 42 last year, according to a survey from the nonprofit eHealth Initiative.

HIEs are networks and systems created to exchange medical information electronically. The systems are expected to grow in scope under incentives included in the economic stimulus law.

Of the 57 community HIEs operating, 26 reported cost savings based on reduced staff time spent handling lab results, 24 trimmed costs for administration and filing, 17 reduced redundant testing, 11 reported lower costs for chronic-care patients, and 10 experienced reduced medical errors. The organization released the survey July 22.

"The survey shows the potential for health information exchange to improve efficiency and reduce health care costs nationwide," said Jennifer Covich Bordenick, chief operating officer and interim chief executive officer of the eHealth Initiative. “We have real examples where care delivery was improved and cost savings found.”

The most popular types of data handled by the exchanges are lab results, 49 exchanges; medication data and prescriptions, 48; outpatient labs, 45; outpatient episodes, 43; radiology results, 39; and emergency department episodes, 36.

Congress provided $350 million in the economic stimulus law to develop HIEs, including the Nationwide Health Information Network. Many of the community-based exchanges are hoping to receive some federal support for their efforts, eHealth Initiative officials said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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