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Study questions effectiveness of HIEs

March 31, 2015
by Richard R. Rogoski
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A research paper published in the journal Health Affairs raises some doubts about the effectiveness of health information exchanges (HIEs) and whether they are delivering on promises to improve speed, quality, safety and cost of healthcare through the connectivity of healthcare organizations. 

Researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) assessed 27 HIE benefit studies looking for evidence that these HIEs have been successful in improving outcomes or reducing costs.

“There is no strong documented evidence in the studies that health care benefits are directly attributable to the use of HIE, rather than being correlated or incidentally,”  said Nir Menachemi, professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and one of the authors of the paper, in a press release.

“We need to eliminate any confounding issues implicating the correlation between benefits and HIE,” he added. “For example, how do we know that the correlation between computerization and good outcomes isn't really just being driven by the fact that early adopters of HIE are exemplary health care providers? We need to rule out those kinds of things.”

However, Menachemi does admit that HIEs are still in their infancy and that most of the early studies of HIEs focused on first-generation systems and at a time when HIE usage was low. As a result, more studies on current usage need to be done, he said.