Connecting to an HIE — The Good, the Bad, and What it Means to You

Written by Dennis Sherba, Practice Director, Connected Community, Professional Services, Iatric Systems

PS-Challenges-of-Connecting-to-an-HIE.jpgConnecting to an HIE and achieving true Interoperability are challenges CIOs face on a daily basis. This is evident based on the number of industry publications that cover this topic almost every day. It’s because the challenge of sharing patient data across disparate systems, and achieving interoperability, are very difficult things to accomplish. And every hospital’s situation is different, which contributes to the complexity.

Some industry experts are even proposing alternatives to HIEs, saying that HIEs are not sustainable (which a lot of them aren’t). However, these alternatives have not yet received widespread adoption. This topic is discussed by Ann Zieger in a post on the Hospital EMR & EHR site. So, should you spend the time and resources to join your State HIE, a Regional HIE, or develop your own Private HIE, or something else all together?

The answer to this question is, it depends on your goals and the status of the regional and State HIEs in your area. The options are all over the map — so to speak.

Our team recently facilitated a focus group about interoperability at HIMSS16, and one CIO said, “We were connected to our state HIE, but the only data we were getting back was our own, so we stopped…”

There is no doubt that the holy grail of true nationwide interoperability is a long way off. Even the ONC is doing outreach for suggestions on metrics to quantify progress towards true interoperability. If you ask 10 people what interoperability means to them, you will get 10 different answers, and all of them are valid. This is also true in relation to the benefits and goals of hospitals connecting to HIEs. The questions are endless:

  • Should I connect to my state HIE or a Regional HIE?
  • Should I create my own private HIE between my hospital systems?
  • What data do I need to send to the HIE?
  • What’s involved in connecting to an HIE (budget and logistics)?
  • What benefits am I going to get from doing so?

…And so on and so on…

The answers to these questions are not straight forward. Because each hospital and HIE situation is different, you really need to do your own evaluation to see what is right for you.

The first thing to find out is how successful is your own state HIE, and what benefits will you get from participating.

A few states are seeing increased adoption of their HIE. This is detailed in a Modern Healthcare blog post that talks about how the multi-million dollars in federal funding have produced some gains, and some failures. The results come from a report commissioned by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.

According to the report:

  • The total number of directed transactions through the HIE increased threefold
  • The total number of patient directed queries increased fourfold
  • Although these numbers represent considerable growth, according to the report, national averages of participation were driven by a small number of top performing states, rather than by high participation across all states

The report states:

“Together, these results indicate a positive trend in HIE adoption and use, across the program years, states, and multiple services. Nonetheless, adoption and use varies heavily by state and many opportunities for expansion remain."

Why are some hospitals successful in connecting to HIEs, and receiving benefits, but others are not? The answer may lie with your EHR.

A recent article by HIEWatch titled “Providers and Payers blame interoperability issues and data blocking on EHR vendors, turn to Private HIE” states:

“In addition to the 57 percent of survey respondents who blame EHR vendors, in fact, 20 percent cited government agencies for being too slow to develop standards that advance interoperability. And 17 percent said executive leadership at their organization is not interested enough in making interoperability and health information exchange happen soon.”

So, as you can see, there is not one right answer. It comes down to how strong your HIE is in your state, what systems you have in place, and what your goals are for exchanging information.

For answers to more in depth questions, and how you can get help determining your path forward with HIE, Population Health, Patient Identity, and other topics, check out this eBook:

Request the eBook Now


Topics: Interoperability, HIE, integration, Health Information Exchange

Subscribe to the Interoperability and HIE blog.

Receive the latest articles directly in your inbox.
Enter your email address and click SUBSCRIBE:



The Path Forward for HIEs, and What I Learned at the SHIEC Annual Conference

I recently attended the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) annual conference in Indianapolis. I had the honor of presenting Iatric Systems thoughts on how to increase HIE...Read More

Change is Constant, How Do You Manage It?

In Healthcare, as in life, the one constant on which we can all rely is change. While change usually brings better outcomes and moves us forward, the process of change can be painful. There are some,...Read More

Importance of Knowing Your Patient Data

The fact of today's world is that patient's medical records do not reside in one system. I don't know anyone today that has only ever been to one doctor, it just doesn't happen. So, it's no wonder...Read More

Stop Duplicating Patient Data in Multiple Systems

Interoperability remains a top challenge for hospitals — so much so that it was cited in the HealthcareIT News 2016 EHR Satisfaction Survey as a top issue. The lack of interoperability causes...Read More

The Bands, Bikes, and Buttons of Emerging Strategies

We all need to recharge our internal batteries now and then. To recharge, some climb Mt. Everest in their personal time, some take vacations. For me, it’s making music — singing, writing, playing....Read More

HIMSS17: Solving Interoperability Challenges with Workflow Integration

I just returned from HIMSS17, and if you did too, you know that with the enormity of a show like this, it is literally impossible to see and talk to everyone that you intend or want to.  One...Read More

Top Interoperability Posts of 2016...and some 2017 Healthcare IT Trends

One of my favorite things about ending a year is taking a look back at the highlights from the year, reflecting on accomplishments, and then quickly turning to look at the possibilities ahead for the...Read More

Does Your Help Desk Need Help?

This time of year, every IT director and clinical manager is dreading one task in particular — the on-call schedule. Between PTO and legal holidays, the best employees can get really cranky when they...Read More

Planning an EHR Migration? Dot Your I's and Cross Your T's!

We all know that a decision to migrate to a new EHR system is one not taken lightly, and takes considerable planning and research in order to make the right choice. The goal is to plan for as smooth...Read More

Increase Your EHR Satisfaction Through Innovation

  Have you read the HealthcareIT News 2016 EHR Satisfaction Survey results? (or maybe you even participated in the survey?) The results were not totally suprprising to most. The EHRs that have...Read More

In the News: The Status of Current and Future HIEs

  How do you get your industry information? Do you keep up with what's going on in the world of HIE? Or, do you only want to know about what's going on in your state? Either way, if you...Read More

How to be the Superhero of Healthcare IT!

It can take super-human strength to meet all of your IT goals! If you're like a lot of healthcare IT executives that I have spoken to lately, it seems that you need super-human strength to be able to...Read More

Recipe for Successful Patient Identity — People, Processes, and a little IT!

Patient identity is a hot topic everywhere we turn. There are a lot of opinions out there and no one has conjured the perfect recipe just yet. The CHIME National Patient ID Challenge initiative has...Read More

Your State May Require You to Join an HIE — Are You Ready?

  In the world of Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), as with many other challenges in Healthcare IT, the regulations are constantly changing, and it can be hard for providers to keep up. Let's...Read More

Connecting to an HIE — The Good, the Bad, and What it Means to You

Connecting to an HIE and achieving true Interoperability are challenges CIOs face on a daily basis. This is evident based on the number of industry publications that cover this topic almost every...Read More

Healthcare CIOs Share Their Interoperability Challenges

Is interoperability a challenge at your hospital? Do the frank opinions of hospital CIOs matter to you? If so, you might be interested in the thoughts and perspectives shared in a focus group at...Read More

How Patient Identity Impacts all Future Healthcare IT Strategies

It seems that I cannot even open my email these days without seeing an article, podcast, or contest (yes, I said contest — more on that later) about the enormous problem hospitals are facing of...Read More

How to Get a Handle on Your Patient Identity Challenges

Patient identity challenges are not going away Patient identity challenges are nothing new; trust me. Back in the 90s, when I implemented the first EMR at a community hospital in the Northeast,...Read More

Interoperability — Don't Get Crushed by the Chaos

Interoperability can mean many things. Interoperability is one of those words that conjures up very different visuals for each of us. Paper cups attached by string, the WiFi router in your home, the...Read More

To Migrate or Not to Migrate...That is the Question!

There’s no question that the healthcare industry has made huge advances in switching from paper records to electronic health records in the last 5-10 years. You can thank Meaningful Use for most of...Read More

How connecting to your state HIE could help patients even more

I recently attended the first Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) annual meeting in Deer Valley, Utah. If you are not familiar with this group, it’s a group of regional or...Read More

Tackling one population health management challenge– health information exchange

Population Health is top of mind for most healthcare IT leaders right now. Have you made moves to migrate your healthcare IT systems, or implement processes to help you with Population Health...Read More

Overcoming Your EHR Optimization Challenges

I recently heard the best analogy that sums up what EHR optimization is all about. They said: “just having the data in the system, but not being able to access it easily, is like having all the...Read More

Stepping Stones to Achieve Population Health Management Goals by Reducing Your Patient Matching Duplication Rate

If you Google “Population Health Management” you will get 77.5 million results, so there is no lack of information about population health management. But how do you make sense of what needs to...Read More

EHR Optimization: Go-LIVE Marks The Beginning

  Picture this…you’ve just gone live with your new EHR. It’s all in the past and you are feeling proud of the effort you and your team has put forth. As the final chapter in a multi-year-long...Read More

Using FHIR for Interoperability – Is it the next big thing?

Since the draft FHIR specifications were released last year, I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of healthcare IT leaders, hospital CIOs, and other vendors about its implementation and...Read More

How to Control Your Data When Joining an HIE

Joining an HIE may have just gotten a boost, at least in some states. The recent news from the ONC announcing they’ve awarded $29.6M to twelve states and state designated entities for the purpose of...Read More

How to plan for an HL7 Standards Update

When your organization is planning for an HL7 standards update, as with every new version of software or new standard, you'll face a learning curve. You have to understand what has changed, what new...Read More

How to approach an EHR migration

Among all of the hot topics in the healthcare IT industry (EHR Interoperability, Meaningful Use, Population Health etc), one of the clear leaders that people are focusing on is EHR Migration. We’ve...Read More

Improve healthcare IT workflows: 4 Steps to overcoming integration challenges

With the future of healthcare moving to value-based care, physicians will be paid based on outcomes. So it's important for the provider, and for the patients' benefit, to make sure the outcomes are...Read More

Making your EMPI solution work for you

I recently presented at the International MUSE conference on the topic of HIEs. The main message was about how to control your data when connecting to an HIE. Of course, when talking about HIEs the...Read More

How interoperability helps patients and saves thousands

One of the perks of being in the healthcare IT business is being able to actually see how IT solutions, and specifically interoperability, can really help improve outcomes — whether it's the...Read More

Connect to the right HIE for your organization

I attended HIMSS15 in Chicago in April and one of the key themes being discussed was population health. This is the ultimate goal for hospitals and healthcare providers; using interoperability and...Read More