The benefits of health information exchange platforms: Measuring the returns on a half a billion dollar investment

The electronic exchange of medical data has the potential to eliminate redundant and often harmful medical procedures. That’s one reason why over the past decade the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has awarded $548 million in grants to states to establish their own health information exchange platforms. But what impact has these investments made toward improving the efficiency of health care services?

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In a new paper, Niam Yaraghi tackles a vexing question for those searching for accurate assessments of the effectiveness of HIE platforms and whether government investments in these programs are returning on their investment. In an empirical analysis of the effects of accessing patient information through an HIE platform in two ED settings in Western New York, Yaraghi found querying the HIE database leads to respectively, a 25 percent and 26 percent reduction in the number of laboratory tests and radiology examinations. In the second ED setting, querying the HIE database resulted in 47 percent reduction in the number of radiology examinations.

Yaraghi concludes that after more than a decade of investment in HIE platforms we are on the verge of realizing returns on investments on health IT. HIE platforms have the potential to leverage the national investments on interoperability and radically improve the efficiency of health care services.