• A
  • |
  • A
  • Text size

Health Information Exchanges

Featured resources: The AMA and HIMSS produced a series of podcasts on health information exchanges (HIEs). Listen to the audio or read full transcripts on the HIMSS website:

  • "Episode #5 - Physician engagement with HIE" discusses the benefits for physician practices to using HIEs, recommendations for overcoming common challenges and requirements for participation.
  • "Episode #7 - Information exchange and stage 2 meaningful use (Part I)" addresses requirements for HIE participation, meaningful use requirements, public health departments and clinical decision support.
  • "Episode #8 - Information exchange and state 2 meaningful use (Part II)" addresses medication reconciliation, registries, health information service providers (HISPs) and the business case for hospitals and commercial labs to engage with HIE.

HIEs are entities that bring together health care stakeholders within a defined geographic area and govern the electronic sharing of health information among them for the purpose of improving health and care in that community. The fundamental concept behind creating HIEs is that the ability to exchange health information electronically is critical to the efforts to improve the US health care system.

The governance, structure and geographic scope of HIEs vary across the country. Some may serve a small geographic region, while others serve an entire state or multi-state region. HIEs also differ in technical models, with some acting as conduits of health information and others serving as repositories of health data. There is also wide variance in the types of clinical data exchanged and services offered by HIEs.

Because HIEs are an emerging field within health information technology, many physicians may be unfamiliar with HIEs and the potential benefits and risks involved in participation. The AMA resource, Physicians' Frequently Asked Questions on Health Information Exchanges, will provide you with answers to common questions related to physicians' participation in HIEs.

Due to the wide variation in HIE structure, services and data exchange models, it is critical that physicians have complete information about an HIE and the impact of participation on their practice before signing a contract. The AMA resource, What questions should I ask before I sign a contract to participate in a particular HIE? provides a list of questions and topics that physicians should research before agreeing to join an HIE.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) document on "The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Electronic Health Information Exchange in a Networked Environment" provides additional information.