by Sarah Bianchi
As federal incentives continue to drive the electronic storage and exchange of patient health records, more and more providers – from large national health systems to small town solo physician practices – are signing onto health information exchanges (HIEs). While few disagree with the value of health information exchanges to improve the coordination of patient care, a debate rages on about which is more valuable for providers – a public or private HIE.
A recent KLAS Research report showed that healthcare providers are currently split in their choice, with about half selecting private HIEs and the other half still operating public HIEs. However, with $560 million in federal funding for public HIEs coming close to running out, and venture capital funding of the health IT field continuing to grow and create new opportunities for private HIE vendors, this balance seems bound to tip soon.
Even beyond the uncertainties surrounding their future funding, many feel public HIEs haven’t lived up to the promises. Their uncertain future, due to difficulties in achieving compliance between competing organizations and growing concerns over financial instability, were noted by KLAS one year ago, and these concerns continue today. Public HIEs can be cumbersome and some have failed to meet the needs of patients and providers. Government regulations and centralized databases are also creating roadblocks to the anticipated success of the public HIE.
Private HIEs offer a viable approach, allowing providers to successfully meet meaningful use standards and improve care coordination, while maintaining better control of their own data. Private HIEs also typically go live faster than their public counterparts, saving providers valuable time. Contrary to the common misconception that granting providers ownership of their own data rather than centralizing it in a national database will encourage data hoarding, private HIE vendors, like Certify Data Systems, are in fact making it easier to share patient records with providers all across the nation.
Some still have faith in public HIEs’ eventual achievements, claiming that private HIEs require heavier integration and interfacing. While this may have been true in the past, pioneering vendors, backed by the surge in health IT venture capital funding, have developed technologies that make private HIEs easier than ever to integrate and interface.
While a perfect system for an HIE has not yet emerged, innovators in the private sector are coming closer to reaching that point. They are making health records easier to share than ever before, reducing medical errors, facilitating care management and ultimately improving the quality of care.
Posted by Davida Dinerman on June 25, 2012 at 8:27 PM