News Feature | October 3, 2014

The Business Case For Interoperability And Health Information Exchange

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

ONC Continues To Encourage Interoperability Efforts

Convincing clients of the importance and benefits of interoperability can be a challenge. Many see health information exchanges (HIEs) only as financial overhead, instead of as gateways to the operational and financial benefits they can be. HIMSS has recently released a business case that could make your conversations about interoperability and the IT solutions around it, a bit easier.

The paper tackles interoperability as an essential component of tech and policy driven transformation in the U.S. healthcare system. It first addresses challenges and barriers to adoption of HIE, including the cost of hardware, software, maintenance and staffing, privacy and security, and competing and conflicting document standards. Interestingly, it also differentiates between public, and private HIE offerings.

Joyce Sensmeier MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, VP of informatics at HIMSS North America states, “The connection between health information exchange and interoperability continues as a primary focus for HIMSS through the Interoperability Showcase — held around the world each year — as well as our tools and resources on health IT standards and interoperability. This new white paper extends our vision of better health through IT and demonstrates support for the Office of the National Coordinator’s current 10-year vision of establishing interoperable health IT networks.”


The paper outlines the progression of the health information exchange from President George W. Bush’s Executive Order in 2004, to the current state of patient record availability, highlighting the fact that true interoperability has still not been achieved, primarily because of the following reasons:

  • There are conflicting and competing standards that need to be resolved.
  • There is a lack of community consensus on best models for improved clinical workflow and payment reform.
  • Obtaining the funds to manage the high costs of developing, implementing, and getting widespread adoption of integrated patient-centered healthcare information has proven to be a nearly universal challenge.

The disparate nature of products and vendors that providers use for electronic health records (EHRs) and registries is also cited as a difficulty.

For VARs

Solutions providers will likely find some of the appendices most useful, specifically page 35, that outlines benefits various providers and facilities have seen from implementation. It provides links to topics and groups including:

  • Nebraska HIE
  • Colorado Regional Health Information Organization
  • rural providers
  • One Health Port (Washington state HIE)
  • hospital workflow
  • medication reconciliation
  • enhanced workflow processes and reduced courier costs
  • strengthened relations with physicians
  • easier admission process

To read more about the current state of hospitals joining HIEs, read “Only 34% Of Hospitals Have Implemented Health Information Exchanges”.