Survey: Health Information Exchange Increases, But Work Still Remains

Sixty-two percent of hospitals exchanged data with outside providers in 2013, according to a recent survey by the American Hospital Association. 

The survey, which was funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, was conducted among CEOs of U.S. non-federal acute care hospitals between November 2013 and February 2014. AHA used the results of its annual surveys – which go as far back as 2008 – to help analyze this year's data.

It found that all types of electronic health information exchange among hospitals and outside providers has increased 51% from 2008 to 2013. More specifically, 56% of hospitals reported they have electronically exchanged data with ambulatory providers outside their system in 2013 -- a 58% increase since 2008, according to the survey. And 40% have exchanged health information with hospitals outside their system, a whopping 167% increase since AHA began tracking such data.

AHA also broke out HIE results by data type. It found that hospitals are most frequently exchanging lab results with other providers (57%), followed closely by radiology reports (55%). This compares with only 35% and 37% of providers exchanging such data in 2008.  However, only 42% of providers reported exchanging clinical care summaries, and 37% reported exchanging medication histories.

AHA also broke out HIE results by state. While some small, but heavily populated states, such as Rhode Island and Delaware reported a 100% rate of exchanging patient data, other more rural states, such as Oklahoma, Montana and Mississippi reported rates of 38%, 41% and 42% respectively.

Data new to this year's survey also showed that four in 10 hospitals have the ability to send and receive secure electronic messages containing patient health information to other providers while more than 50% were able to electronically request and retrieve patient health information from outside sources.

While ONC anticipates HIE rates to continue to grow along with EHR adoption as a result of Meaningful Use programs, the organization still sees areas for improvement. For example, new data from the 2013 survey showed that less than 50% of hospitals routinely notified a patient's primary care provider inside their system when they entered the emergency room and only about 25% notified a primary caregiver outside their system. 

"ONC, along with other federal agencies, is encouraging the exchange of health information to support public health, collaborating with state partners to advance regional and state-level HIE, and determining whether the technology for data exchange and aggregation supports delivery system transformation," according to an ONC blog post by Matthew Swain, program analyst, office of economic analysis, evaluation and modeling at ONC and Erica Galvez, interoperability and exchange portfolio manager at ONC. "Collectively, and in partnership with public and private stakeholders, these efforts will increase the exchange of essential health information across the care continuum."