By Greg McInerney, Editorial Assistant
Health information exchanges (HIEs) have been touted as an excellent way to improve the health care industry for both providers and patients. Yet however well-intentioned the concept of HIEs may be, they are not immune to failure. There have been many examples of HIEs failing to sustain themselves in the long run, primarily due to a lack of organization and financial sustainability.
The National eHealth Collaborative (NeHC) recently published a much anticipated report, “Health Information Exchange Roadmap: The Landscape and a Path Forward.” The report aims to “offer stakeholders a clear picture of efforts being undertaken by both the public and private sectors to create and implement the key building blocks that will allow for truly interoperable HIE.”
NeHC interviewed over 75 experts and prominent figures within the industry when compiling its report, which includes case studies from across the United States, encompassing a broad variety of HIE models including private, private/public and government operated.
Despite covering a broad range of HIEs with differing operational methods, the report concludes that there are four critical components to the implementation and sustainability of a HIE:
- HIE objectives and vision;
- Market assessment;
- Strategy development;
- Strategy implementation.
Another report recently published by IDC Health Insights, “Best Practices: Establishing Sustainable Health Information Exchange,” also emphasizes the importance of planning. The report describes how a lack of effective planning will inevitably consign a HIE to failure, regardless of how well-intentioned it is.
These failed ventures often sought out potential solutions, systems, partners and vendors before they had concretely identified the financial and technical requirements of the HIEs they wished to create.
IDC’s report is also critical of the failure of HIEs to design and implement their systems in conjunction with an evolving “patient-centric” health care industry. In order for interoperability to be more than just a buzz word, HIEs need to work in conjunction with stakeholders and gain their trust, according to executives that were interviewed.
The underlying message of both reports seems to be a simple one — plan effectively. “Too many [HIEs] have relied on the ‘build and they will come’ strategy,” asserts Lynne A. Dunbrack, program director at IDC Health Insights. HIEs must plan for sustainability from the very beginning, said Dunbrack, adding that “If the [HIE] will not be sustainable after the initial funding, then careful consideration should be given to whether to launch…in the first place.”