Number of Public HIEs Drop, Bringing Viability into Question

Greg Slabodkin | Health Data Management | July 8, 2016

Despite federal funding that aided their creation, the number of community and state health information exchanges is declining as HIEs struggle to remain financially viable now that seed money has dried up. Those are among the results of a new national survey published in the July issue of Health Affairs that tracked community and state HIE efforts soon after federal funding ended. “We found 106 operational HIE efforts that, as a group, engaged more than one-third of all U.S. providers in 2014,” states the study’s authors. “However, the number of operational HIE efforts is down from 119 in 2012, representing the first decline observed since the tracking of these efforts began in 2006.”

Specifically, the study reported an 11 percent drop in the number of state and community exchanges from 2012 to 2014. In addition, the survey results showed that only half of operational HIEs reported being financially viable, while all of them reported a variety of barriers to continuing operations. The most important takeaway from the study is that funding from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT was not a panacea for HIEs, says Julia Adler-Milstein, co-author of the article and assistant professor in the School of Information and School of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

The State HIE Cooperative Agreement Program, launched by ONC in March 2010 with $547 million to develop HIEs, was intended to facilitate and expand the secure electronic movement and use of health information among organizations based on nationally recognized standards. “The State HIE Cooperative Agreement really gave HIE efforts a big cash infusion,” says Adler-Milstein, who adds that more than $600 million was awarded to various community and state organizations to organize the exchanges. “However, the unfortunate reality is that money did not prove to be enough”...