Healthcare providers who refuse to implement EHR interoperability sometimes complain about the cost of accessing health information exchange (HIE) expertise. They believe that they will need a huge sum of money to pay HIE organizations to enjoy the benefits of interoperability. However, with the presence of HIE collaboratives and increasing compliance with standards, many providers will be able to share health IT data at a lower cost.

What Are HIE Collaboratives?

HIE collaboratives are interconnected networks and collectives such as CommonWell, Surescripts and eHealth Exchange that work with healthcare providers and other information exchange organizations to ensure the secure exchange of data across various healthcare facilities throughout the country. One such collaborative called Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC) had up to 55 HIE organizations comprising Reliance eHealth and Utah Health Information Network (UHIN) in its membership.

The rapid growth of these HIE collaboratives and other similar organizations shows how effective cooperative effort can be in the industry. HIEs meet regularly to learn from each other and to create new strategies to save cost and make data exchange faster and more secure. These collaboratives work together to solve problems that will be difficult to solve by stand-alone HIEs.

As the push for interoperability becomes one of the major priorities in the healthcare industry, HIE networks and collaboratives will play a key role in the standardization and the use of newly developed technologies in the healthcare industry.

Standardization in HIE Organizations

The ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) has named interoperability as its top priority for the past two years. This government agency wants to overcome the barriers to information exchange between EHR systems through its four-pronged strategy of trust, technical, workforce and financial targets of interoperability. Networks like CommonWell, Surescript and Carequality have working frameworks that enhance connectivity across networks.

Easy Adoption of New Technologies

HIE collaboratives are also effective in disseminating new technologies quickly through the large-scale adoption of these initiatives. For instance, once an HIE collaborative provides a new patient center technology, all the connected HIE organizations and their connected healthcare providers can adopt it and offer it their patients without paying any additional cost.

Also, HIE organizations can participate in the testing of new technologies on a large scale. This makes it easy to quickly discover the effectiveness or drawbacks in any new technology before final deployment. This level of coordination helps cut costs and also saves lives as long as patients are convinced about the need to share their information across such a large network.

Using the broad reach of HIE associations, spreading new technologies that improve the outcome of patient care can be very cost-effective. In a short while, it will be easy for providers with interoperable EHR systems, like those supplied and supported by HEF Solutions, to test and adopt new technologies. This will also reduce the potential for healthcare organizations to be left behind their peers in using and adopting new health IT tools and technologies.