How to choose a health information exchange vendor

Just a few years ago, practices had very little choice when selecting a Health Information Exchange (HIE) provider. Some areas were only covered by a single provider. Now practice managers can choose from federal, state or private HIE vendors, all vying for your practice’s business. The number of choices can be bewildering, and some practices need to join more than one. While the government is pushing health care providers into joining an HIE through their Meaningful Use requirements, choosing the correct one for your practice is not something you should rush into. When you choose a vendor, here are some things to consider.<
Gather information from local health care providers. If your practice is located in a populated area, reach out other local facilities and insurers for information and feedback. You should also reach out if you run a specialty practice and are receiving significant business from a particular source such as a hospital, general practitioner or clinic. While HIEs can transfer information between exchanges, it’s a good idea to join the same HIE as the other businesses your practice relies on to ensure maximum compatibility, stability and speedy resolution in case of an issue.

Find your practice’s “pain points.” A pain point is a particularly troublesome or time-consuming issue. The first step to finding your ideal HIE partner is finding out what you want out of the partnership. Find your practice’s pain points and start your search by asking which HIEs will address them. HIE vendors are not all the same. They offer different services and service levels.

Determine where the majority of your patients live. HIEs cover different physical areas. If most of your patients live in a specific area, choose an HIE that covers that area. If no HIE covers the entire area, you may have to join more than one.

Do your due diligence. Ask about their levels of support, how often they do technology updates and upgrades, and the average resolution time for support issues and bugs. In addition, you should also consider the sustainability of the vendor. Some HIEs are mainly supported by federal funding through the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009. This money will not last forever, so if the provider is making use of these funds, be sure they have a sound strategy for a business that’s sustainable in the long term after the money runs out.

What will happen if the vendor is acquired? Even if the vendor is financially stable and has a sustainable business model, there is a possibility the vendor could be acquired. There has been a trend toward mergers and acquisition as big names in the health care industry buy into the HIE market. Ask the vendors you are considering what is likely to happen if they are acquired.

Interoperability is a vital part of the health information technology landscape and a central element of improving patient care.  Selecting the right Health Information Exchange vendor for your practice will help solve many of the challenges your practice may face in the future.

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