Health information exchanges (HIEs) are an appealing way of harnessing technology to improve care. Too often, doctors must make medical decisions based on incomplete clinical information. Electronic health records are part of the solution, but their full value won’t be achieved until they’re connected to provide a cross-institutional, comprehensive, timely and accessible view of a patient’s medical history.
Public and private HIEs are creating the connections and clearinghouses to make this possible. However, while everyone recognizes that better information can lead to better care, financing HIEs has proved to be very challenging. One hope has been that HIEs could pay off quickly in early cost savings. It stands to reason that doctors wouldn’t need to order as many tests if they knew the results of previous ones, and early studies led to very promising projections of costly tests averted.