Spike in EHR adoption rate creates opportunity for HIE expansion

Growth in the implementation of EHR systems has led to the creation of more digital health information, but will it alter the course of HIE?

Since the enactment of the HITECH Act in 2009, the hospital EHR adoption rate has been on the rise. An ONC data brief confirmed as much in its findings. The brief, citing data from the 2013 American Hospital Association's Annual Survey, shows that Hawaii, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Arkansas are the five states with the highest adoption rate of at least a basic EHR system. 

The brief also showed a spike in the EHR adoption rate from 2012 to 2013. The increase wasn't unforeseen by healthcare analysts and likely resulted from providers taking advantage of available EHR incentives. The last two years have been filled with added regulations and preparations, including those posed by ICD-10, creating extra work that may have deterred an even greater increase in EHR adoption. For providers that have recently implemented an EHR, there is still more work to be done in overcoming obstacles associated with the different stages of meaningful use and health information exchange (HIE).

Adopting an EHR system is the first step to getting patient data into electronic format. Now that the EHR adoption rate has risen, the next step will be providers looking to establish or join HIEs as a way to share healthcare information. For many, the exchanges will enable collaboration among providers that don't necessarily belong to the same integrated delivery network.

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Data is streamlined and available when providers belong to the same network. Challenges arise when one hospital tries to connect with another that may not run the same vendor's EHR. This problem can be circumvented by connecting through a state or regional HIE. Some HIEs (including CareSpark) were unable to sustain their business model and were forced to shut their doors, though many have been able to provide a platform that facilitates the exchange of data between providers.

The recent data and observations related to the EHR adoption rate are strong indications that the American health system is moving away from paper. This shift will lead to more collaboration by way of HIEs and further the role they play in patient care.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email
editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

This was first published in June 2014

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