Health information exchange (HIE) is defined as the mobilization of healthcare information electronically across organizations within a region, community or hospital system.

HIE provides the capability to electronically move clinical information among disparate health care information systems while maintaining the meaning of the information being exchanged. The goal of HIE is to facilitate access to and retrieval of clinical data to provide safer, more timely, efficient, effective, equitable, patient-centered care. HIE is also useful to Public Health authorities to assist inanalyses of the health of the population.

HIE systems facilitate physicians and clinicians meeting high standards of patient care through electronic participation in a patient’s with multiple providers. Secondary health care provider benefits include reduced expenses associated with: duplicate tests, time involved in recovering missing patient information, paper, ink and associated office machinery, manual printing, scanning and faxing of documents, the physical mailing of entire patient charts, and manual phone communication to verify delivery of traditional communications, referrals and test results.

HIE is an integral component of the health information technology (HIT) infrastructure under development in the United States and the associated National Health Information Network (NHIN). To meet requirements, HIE technology must enable reliable and secure transfer of data among diverse systems and also facilitate access and retrieval data. The purpose of HIE development is to improve healthcare delivery and information gathering.

The terms “RHIO” and “Health Information Exchange” or “HIE” are often used interchangeably. RHIO (regional health information organization) is a group of organizations with a business stake in improving the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare delivery. RHIOs are the building blocks of the proposed National Health Information Network (NHIN) initiative proposed by David Brailer, MD, and his team at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT). To build a national network of interoperable health records, the effort must first develop at the local and state levels. The concept of NHIN requires extensive collaboration by a diverse set of stake holders. The challenges are many to achieve success for a health information exchange or a RHIO.

Information and data exchange is a critical to the delivery of quality patient care services and effectiveness of healthcare organizations. The benefits of appropriate sharing of health information among patients, physicians, and other authorized participants in the healthcare delivery value chain, are nearly universally understood and desired. Few organizations and systems have taken advantage of the full potential of the current state of the art in computer science and health informatics. Healthcare Information Exchange initiatives focus on the areas of technology, interoperability, standards utilization, harmonization, and business information systems while also supporting HIMSS activities focused on the national, state and local level.


The RECs are nonprofit organizations that receive subsidized funding from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to develop materials and provide technical assistance initially to priority primary care providers (PPCP) in the selection, implementation, and upgrades of EHR technology, enabling providers to meetMeaningful Use incentives. In performing their mission, 62 RECs are responsible for negotiating with EHR Vendors on behalf of 100,000 providers and leveraging the combined purchasing power of physicians they represent. RECs share tools, knowledge, and best practices through 14 Communities of Practice (CoP), one of which is the Vendor Selection and Management CoP. A primary goal of the VSM CoP is to educate providers on EHR Vendor Selection and to assist the providers in using their EHR systems in a way that will enhance the quality of healthcare delivered to patients. An advisory board of REC members governs each CoP where they invite the exchange of information via workgroup calls, onsite and web-hosted training, as well as the HITRC Portal (http://www.hitrc-collaborative.org)

Information provided courtesy of himss.org


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