Health leaders are interested in connecting up with other organizations — an interest documented by several studies — but many aren’t moving ahead. HIE expansion is proceeding slowly for a number of reasons, not the least of which are concerns about HIE costs and the great difficulty in establishing interoperable data streams.
But some of the reasons healthcare administrators cite for not moving ahead are actually myths, according to a story in Becker’s Hospital Review. Becker’s spoke with Carol Parker, executive director of the East Lansing, Mich-based Great Lakes Health Information Exchange, who argued that at least three common beliefs about HIEs are myths.
1. HIEs are costly. According to Parker, hospitals assume that HIE connections will prove to be as expensive as bringing an EMR on board, which naturally gives them pause. But the truth is that HIE costs are “negligible” compared to EMR expenses, Parker says. For example, she estimates that a 300-bed hospital would pay less than $50,000 per year, a very small number when compared to EMR costs.
2. HIEs are less secure than current systems. Providers worry that HIEs aren’t going to offer strong enough data security to ensure HIPAA compliance. In fact, according to a HIMSS Analytics report, 39 percent of hospitals who are already on board with HIEs have privacy concerns. But according to Parker, HIEs like hers have tight security measures in place. GLHIE even has a chief privacy and security officer who audits and monitors the data to make sure security meets government and industry standards.
3. HIEs don’t need to be a priority. According to Parker, providers overwhelmed by EMR installs have “IT fatigue” and don’t feel they can add this one more thing to their efforts. But Parker argues that participation in an HIE is critical, particularly as hospitals take on population health management, and work under performance-based contracts. “It will be challenging to make that work without having information on care delivered to the patient outside of the health system’s network,” she says.
While Parker is obviously biased in favor of HIEs, I believe she makes some good points. It’s particularly interesting to hear that the annual cost of HIE participation, at least with GLHIE, is a relatively small number. Now, just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean joining an HIE isn’t a big deal. But it’s good to hear that the costs are probably doable for most hospitals.