By Brita Van Fossen, Editorial Assistant
Slowly, the health care industry is undergoing a transformation and beginning to make the necessary changes to meet the meaningful use requirements. Since the passage of the HITECH Act in 2009, there has been a pronounced increase in the number of entities that provide health information exchange (HIE) capabilities.
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The Annual Survey of Health Information Exchange, recently published by eHealth Initiative, shows the statistical increases that have taken place since the publication of the same survey only 12 months ago. The number of HIEs has increased by 9% during the year, growing from 234 organizations in 2010 to 255 in 2011. This growth illustrates the continued upward trend in the adoption of the initiative in recent years, and serves as a 24% increase since 2009.
Even with the growth in the number of HIEs, a main concern is whether they will be operational in years to come. The number of sustainable HIEs has also shown improvement over the past year, rising from 18 to 24. Although small, Government Health IT surmises that this is a step on the path toward meeting meaningful use requirements and, critically, transmitting information among health care providers.
Interoperable electronic health record (EHR) technology is fundamental to the health information exchange process. A lack of interoperability has traditionally made such communication impossible. A new initiative led by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) called the Direct Project aims to change that — and 113 of the 255 HIEs surveyed have pledged to incorporate the technology into their toolkit.
The Direct Project was formulated in order to set the standard for health information exchange and to combat the question of security in the transmission of sensitive patient data across electronic channels. The focus is upon simple yet secure messaging that allows for automatic updates to patient records when information is added or revised. This ensures that the information is always up to date but that the process of updating info doesn’t interfere with the doctor’s workflow.
As the deadline for Stage 1 of meaningful use approaches, there is a heightened drive for the adoption of technologies and workflows that meet the defined standards. An increasing number of providers are turning to HIEs. Although the transition has been difficult and will continue to present challenges, the statistics reported indicate a positive trend. This trend should lend credence to the notion that change is possible, and that, soon, a patient-centered approach to health care, with information flowing freely from primary care physician to specialist to hospital and back again, will be the preferred method — and that those who are unwilling to convert will likely fall out of favor.
(Editor’s note: This is the first blog entry by Brita Van Fossen, an editorial assistant at TechTarget. She will be regularly contributing to Health IT Pulse over the next few months. Welcome aboard, Brita!)