News Feature | May 8, 2015

76% Of Hospitals Engaged In Electronic Sharing Of Health Info Last Year

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Government IT News For VARs — December 3, 2014

This represents a 23 percent increase since 2013 and an 85 percent increase since 2008, the year AHA started collecting this information.

More than three quarters of non-federal acute care hospitals reported electronically sharing health information with outside providers in 2014 according to a report released by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. This data is significant, in light of the emphasis that ONC has placed on advancing secure and interoperable exchange of information as part of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 and the focus of the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap.

The survey also found 69 percent of hospitals electronically exchanged health information with ambulatory providers outside their organization, a 92 percent increase since 2008 and a 21 percent increase over 2013.

Erica Galvez, ONC’s interoperability and exchange portfolio manager, and Matthew Swain, program analyst in the ONC’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Analysis, explained in an ONC blog post, “Our past analysis showed steady growth among hospitals with both trading partners; however, we found substantial deficits with hospital-to-hospital exchange. Prior research studies suggested that this was due to competition and a weak business model. And our prior results substantiated those findings. However, now this gap is rapidly closing.”

According to the ONC report, prior to the passing of the HITECH Act, only 15 percent of hospitals engaged in electronic exchange of health information with providers outside of their systems, although exchange with outside ambulatory care providers was significantly higher. Competition among hospitals and cross-vendor interoperability have historically been cited as obstacles to free exchange out-of-network. The current study has found that gap is narrowing, however, with the percent of hospitals electronically exchanging clinical data with out-of-network hospitals at 62 percent – quadruple that of 2008, and a 55 percent increase from 2013.

In addition, the gap in variation by type of data exchanged has also begun to close, with 69 percent of hospitals exchanging laboratory results, 65 percent sharing radiology reports, and 64 percent sharing clinical case summaries with outside hospitals. And 58 percent reported electronically sharing medication history with outside providers.

“Our prior research found that exchange among all data types have increased since 2011; however, we also observed a gap in regards to the type of data exchanged. In last year’s data brief, we reported that hospitals exchanged laboratory results and radiology reports at much higher rates than clinical care summaries and medication lists. Now this gap has shrunk significantly. Each measure is no more than four percentage points from one another; except for medication histories, which still fall a little behind (though closer than previous years),” Galvez and Swain explained.