HIEs diversify, grow in 2016

President-elect Donald Trump and fellow Republicans are set to take over the White House and Congress next year, which means healthcare as we know it will drastically change.

One facet of the industry that is not expected to be impacted greatly, however, is the growing field of health information exchanges (HIEs). This is fortunate for the various parties that have come to rely on HIEs, including a network of providers, state agencies, clinics, and software companies that are involved in workflow relationships that often reach byzantine proportions.

Ideally, HIEs enable patients, their families and providers to send and receive health-related information securely. They also allow authorized parties access to and utilization of information, and let providers use the data to better construct effective population health management programs. The more parties involved, the more effective the exchange functions.

Take for example the Kentucky Health Information Exchange (KHIE), a state-run program that involves more than 1,300 statewide provider locations providing live data. Since receiving funding for the exchange in 2009 via the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), KHIE has quickly grown to include key partnerships with Owensboro Health, Kentucky Primary Care Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Kentucky Medicaid. Other resources include immunization and cancer registries, and data from Lexington-Fayette Corrections.

As part of a virtual conference hosted by DRG’s Healthcare Business Insights (HBI) in October 2016, executives with KHIE and Owensboro discussed types of functions we can expect HIEs to perform in the future. The exchange hopes to continue forming partnerships, improve on quality data submissions, and standardize connections with electronic health record (EHR) vendors. KHIE does business with more than 130 vendors, so streamlining connections would go a long way toward simplifying data flow.

Beyond the state HIEs, the industry is beginning to see formation of private and public-private partnership exchanges as well. Since its launch a year ago, HealthIT Interoperability reports the Carequality exchange is used by more than 11,000 clinics and 500 hospitals. Carequality is a creation of the Sequoia Project, which also manages an eHealth Exchange that has been used by vast agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Colorado Regional Health Information Organization. Founding members of Carequality include large vendors Athenahealth, Epic, SureScripts, and GE Healthcare, among others.

The creation of exchanges like Carequality is a reflection of the industry continually attempting to share like-minded guidelines in an effort to make interoperability more seamless. Expect to see continued development of innovative HIE programs, like in Louisiana, where the state has expanded its exchange model to include data from all five of the state’s Medicaid MCO plans.

That HIEs have been borne largely from the 2009 HITECH Act, and not the 2010 Affordable Care Act, bodes well for their future. It would be surprising if the Trump administration attempts to tamper with health information technology in any fashion, as great strides have been made through the HIEs the past several years. And as most players in the space will tell you, there are still many objectives to accomplish.

Follow Chris Silva on Twitter: @ChrisSilvaDRG