Report: HHS underwrites half of health IT exchanges

About one-half of all health information exchanges around the nation depend on the federal government for development funding through grants and contracts.

Standards adoption, sustainable financing and incentives to move to health IT remain challenges, said a report released today from the eHealth Initiative, a nonprofit umbrella group of industry, public health, research and academic organizations.

The Health and Human Services Department, which also sponsored the survey report, has taken a lead role to promote standards so hospitals and physicians participating in health IT networks can exchange patient data, such as electronic health records, with each other and with other networks.

Health IT exchanges need broad adoption of standards, the creation of innovative capital to fund startup costs and the alignment of incentives to promote the mobilization of information through health information exchange to support patient care, the report said.

Without those, “U.S. efforts to expand the interoperability on the ground—where health care is delivered—will continue to move at a slow pace,” said eHealth Initiative CEO Janet Marchibroda. The report surveying the more than 100 health IT efforts in 45 states and the District of Columbia

The survey will serve as an annual report card on the state interoperability and health information exchange activities and inform federal policymakers. HHS has said it wants industry to decide on standards before many health IT exchanges, which employ a variety of standards, emerge in order to assure interoperability.

Existing health IT exchanges provide functionality for patient enrollment or eligibility checking, patient data repository, clinical documentation, lab results delivery and physician consultation or referral.

Health IT networks, which are typically local and regionally based, also rely on state and local government funding. Hospitals, physicians, medical labs and philanthropies, however, are increasing their funding of health IT networks as they become operational, the report said.

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