IT Innovation. Business Value.

HIEs: Improving Patient Outcomes through Technology & Healthcare

A little more than a generation ago, healthcare was characterized as a physician working with a patient; occasionally involving a hospital. Less than 50 years ago, doctors still made house calls.

Today, in the 21st century, caring for a single patient could involve a vast network that includes state and local governments, insurance companies, testing laboratories, any number of specialists, medical device manufacturers, pharmacies, immunization records, public health services, Medicare and Medicaid, and home health providers, to mention a few. Healthcare is now a patchwork of people, systems, and information.

Please note, this executive brief is an abbreviated version of the original. For the full version, please download HIE: Improving Patient Outcomes through Technology and Healthcare (PDF).



Consequential patient information, collected by any of the providers could be shared among the entire network when and where it was needed, if there was a system to facilitate that kind of communication.

For several years, a vision for improving healthcare has been evolving that makes use of sophisticated technology to compile patient information from multiple sources and stored in a single database or distributed database system. This vision, known as a Health Information Exchange (HIE) is intended to facilitate the electronic movement of health-related information between different organizations according to national standards like HL7.  An HIE, not to be confused with the Health Insurance Exchange (HIX), is a tightly controlled exchange that oversees, governs and implements the communication of information among medical stakeholders for the purpose of improving patient care.

The concept of a Health Information Exchange is a good idea that will certainly make it easier for medical professionals to deliver excellent healthcare. The problem is how to make health exchange organizations work, from either a technical or logistical point-of-reference.

Technically, the complex architecture required to integrate an enormous variety of healthcare data from an enormous number of sources, scattered throughout the country is daunting to say the very least.

Logistically, the processes required to enable ‘meaningful’ patient information to be securely exchanged and understood2 among the various stakeholders is yet another intimidating task.

Add to the technical and logistical issues, an even bigger question looms – who will pay for it?

This whitepaper will focus on how the organizations that are building these HIEs are dealing with these three challenges: technical requirements, logistical hurdles, and long-term funding issues.

To continue reading, please download the full version here.