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Health information exchange (HIE) is an important tool for improving efficiency and quality and is required for providers to meet Meaningful Use certification from the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. However widespread adoption and use of HIE has been difficult to achieve, especially in settings such as smaller-sized physician practices and federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). We assess electronic data exchange activities and identify barriers and benefits to HIE participation in two underserved settings.
We conducted key-informant interviews with stakeholders at physician practices and health centers. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and then coded in two waves: first using an open-coding approach and second using selective coding to identify themes that emerged across interviews, including barriers and facilitators to HIE adoption and use.
We interviewed 24 providers, administrators and office staff from 16 locations in two states. They identified barriers to HIE use at three levels—regional (e.g., lack of area-level exchanges; partner organizations), inter-organizational (e.g., strong relationships with exchange partners; achieving a critical mass of users), and intra-organizational (e.g., type of electronic medical record used; integration into organization’s workflow). A major perceived benefit of HIE use was the improved care-coordination clinicians could provide to patients as a direct result of the HIE information. Utilization and perceived benefit of the exchange systems differed based on several practice- and clinic-level factors.
The adoption and use of HIE in underserved settings appears to be impeded by regional, inter-organizational, and intra-organizational factors and facilitated by perceived benefits largely at the intra-organizational level. Stakeholders should consider factors both internal and external to their organization, focusing efforts in changing modifiable factors and tailoring HIE efforts based on all three categories of factors. Collective action between organizations may be needed to address inter-organizational and regional barriers. In the interest of facilitating HIE adoption and use, the impact of interventions at various levels on improving the use of electronic health data exchange should be tested.