Health exchange participation growing, but long-term funding remains concern

Participation in electronic health information exchanges is growing, but long-term funding may come up short, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Health information exchange programs, which allow electronic access to a patient’s medical history, have been deemed a national priority, with $548 million from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act devoted to helping states establish electronic exchanges. The exchanges may improve diagnoses and reduce redundant testing that could enhance the quality and efficiency of patient care.

The current study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that 119 organizations were actively engaging in electronic exchange efforts, which is a 61% increase from 2010. However, they also found that 74% of exchange programs reported that they are struggling to develop a sustainable business model.

“What we’ve seen is this federal money really has made a big difference,” Julia Adler-Milstein, lead study author and an assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Information and School of Public Health, stated in a news release. “What hasn’t really moved, though, is the perception that the organizations haven’t figured out how to fund themselves, which will be a big problem after the government grant money runs out in January 2014.”

According to Adler-Milstein, exchange efforts could also enable large clinical studies across institutions and aid in the establishment of accountable care organizations, which are voluntary groups of doctors and hospitals that agree to coordinate care and reduce duplicated services.

“If these accountable care organizations are going to be successful, they need to know what care patients are receiving,” Adler-Milstein said. “If you want to know how things are going from a quality perspective, that requires data. It’s a broader effort that’s really about aligning incentives for health care, but underneath it all is health information exchange.”

For more information:

Adler-Milstein J. Health Aff. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2013.0124.

Disclosure: Adler-Milstein has no relevant financial disclosures.

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