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National Health Information Exchange Survey Shows Increased Activity, Cost Savings, Positive Impact on Physician Practices

More Initiatives Exchanging Data Leads to New Improvements in Quality and Returns on Investment

WASHINGTON, July 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The exchange of health information electronically between physicians, hospitals, health plans, and patients has increased substantially in the last year and is reducing the cost of care and positively impacting physicians, according to a new survey released by the non-profit eHealth Initiative (eHI) today. "Migrating Toward Meaningful Use: The State of Health Information Exchange," a report based on eHI's Sixth Annual Survey of Health Information Exchange, includes responses from 150 community-based initiatives and shows a nearly 40 percent increase in the number of advanced or "operational" initiatives exchanging information. Responses from operational initiatives demonstrate an increasingly positive impact on the efficiency of care while showing a return on investment (ROI).

The key findings from the 2009 survey are as follows:

  • The number of organizations that reported being operational has sharply increased. Fifty-seven health information exchange initiatives reported being operational in 2009, up from 42 initiatives in 2008, a nearly 40 percent increase from last year.

* Cost savings resulting from health information exchange were reported by 40 operational initiatives. Cost savings have been identified in a variety of areas, including:

  • Reduced staff time spent on handling lab and radiology results (26 operational initiatives).
  • Reduced staff time spent on clerical administration and filing (24).
  • Decreased dollars spent on redundant tests (17).
  • Decreased cost of care for chronic care patients (11).
  • Reduced medication errors (10).

* Health information exchange has had a positive impact on physician practices, allowing them to become more efficient without disrupting care. Operational initiatives report the following impacts for practices that utilize the exchange:

  • Improved access to test results and resultant efficiencies on practice (28 operational initiatives).
  • Improved quality of practice life (i.e., less hassles looking for information, getting home sooner at the end of the day, etc) (24).
  • Reduced staff time spent on handling lab and radiology results (23).
  • Reduced staff time spent on clerical administration and filing (22).

"The survey shows the potential for health information exchange to improve efficiency and reduce health care costs nationwide. We have real examples where care delivery was improved and cost savings found," said Jennifer Covich, Chief Operating Officer and Interim CEO at eHI. "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act could significantly impact health information exchange. Now more than ever, we need to focus on what works and direct resources that way."

Additional findings from the current survey include:

  • Health information exchange can help reduce costs for a number of different stakeholders, but hospitals and physician practices so far see the greatest return on investment.
    • In 2009, operational initiatives most often reported ROI from hospitals (21) and physician practices (19).

  • The services most offered are results delivery, connectivity with electronic health records, clinical documentation, and alerts for providers.
    • Results delivery, for example laboratory or diagnostic study results (44 initiatives).
    • Connectivity to electronic health records (38).
    • Clinical documentation (34).
    • Alerts to providers (31).
    • Electronic prescribing (26).

  • More health information initiatives are exchanging data, with increases in the type of data exchanged nearly across the board. The number of initiatives currently exchanging data:
  • Laboratory data increased to 49 initiatives, up from 26 in 2008.
  • Medication data (including outpatient prescriptions) 48 initiatives are currently exchanging.
  • Outpatient laboratory increased to 45, up from 25 in 2008.
  • Outpatient episodes increased to 43, up from 23 in 2008.
  • Radiology results increased to 39, up from 23 in 2008.
  • Emergency department episodes increased to 36, up from 27 in 2008.

  • Health information exchange initiatives are less dependent upon federal funding.
    • Seventy-one initiatives reported they are not dependent on federal funding, up from 64 initiatives in 2008.
    • At the same time, 90 respondents hope or expect to receive funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"One of the greatest challenges has been our ability to spread best practices in health information exchange," added Covich. "Cost savings and improved quality of care need to be better documented, so we can replicate what works and help create a health care system that connects clinicians and providers. We have a great opportunity to expand HIE efforts with the new funding coming out in 2009 and 2010 through the Recovery Act. We need to take advantage of this moment in time, when health information technology and health information exchange enjoy broad support. We might not get another."

The report is available on the eHI Website at

About eHealth Initiative and Its Foundation

The eHealth Initiative and its Foundation are independent, non-profit affiliated organizations whose missions are the same: to drive improvements in the quality, safety, and efficiency of healthcare through information and information technology.

eHI engages multiple stakeholders, including clinicians, consumer and patient groups, employers, health plans, health IT suppliers, hospitals and other providers, laboratories, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, pharmacies, public health, public sector agencies, and its growing coalition of more than 260 state, regional and community-based collaboratives, to reach agreement on and drive the adoption of common principles, policies and best practices for improving the quality, safety and effectiveness of healthcare through information and information technology. For more information, go to

SOURCE eHealth Initiative
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