Study: EHR adoption fueling health information exchange

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Health information exchange between hospitals and other providers increased 41 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to recently published research from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

In an effort to promote the use of electronic health records nationwide, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September 2012 announced the final rule to govern Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs. Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, doctors, healthcare professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt and "meaningfully use" certified EHR technology. The final rule for Stage 2 of the incentive program--which will begin as early as 2014--is designed to increase health information exchange between providers.

"Stage 2 Meaningful Use, which requires eligible hospitals to exchange with outside organizations using different EHR systems and share summary of care records during transitions of care, can help accelerate hospital use of HIE as a means to enhance care quality and safety," states a press release announcing the study results, which found that six in 10 hospitals actively exchanged electronic health information with providers and hospitals outside their organization in 2012.  

However, one area the study found that needs more attention is that of care summaries and medication lists. Only about one-third of hospitals exchanged clinical care summaries or medication lists with outside providers. 

Among the other findings of the study:

  • 58 percent of hospitals exchanged data with providers outside their organization in 2012 and hospitals' exchanges with other hospitals outside their organization more than doubled during the study period
  • Hospitals with basic EHR systems and participating in HIOs had the highest rates of hospital exchange activity in 2012, regardless of the organizational affiliation of the provider exchanging data or the type of clinical information exchanged
  • The proportion of hospitals that adopted at least a basic EHR and participated in an HIO grew more than fivefold from 2008 to 2012
  • Between 2008 and 2012, there were significant increases in the percentage of hospitals exchanging radiology reports, laboratory results, clinical care summaries, and medication lists with hospitals and providers outside of their organization
  • 84 percent of hospitals that adopted an EHR and participated in a regional HIO exchanged information with providers outside their organization

"Our new research is crystal clear: health information exchange is happening and it is growing. But we still have a long road ahead toward universal interoperability," said Dr. Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and a co-author of the study, in a written statement.

For more:
- go to announcement
- go to Health Affairs article abstract

Related Articles:  
CMS looking to leverage data for health outcomes 
ONC: More than half of eligible recipients receiving incentives for Meaningful Use of EHRs 
Health data exchange needs new policy push, say ONC and CMS