To find success stories about how health information exchanges (HIEs) function as health data utilities across the United States, look no further than recent efforts to support local, state, regional, and national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are numerous instances where our member organizations have demonstrated the vast capabilities of health data utility infrastructure to solve some of the most pressing challenges associated with making real-time and actionable clinical data available to those who need it most. This includes areas of focus, such as:
- Bridging divides between public health departments and health care providers;
- Admissions, discharge, and transfer data;
- Lab results;
- Radiology images; and
- Longitudinal health information
CSRI prioritized this work to support the country’s critical needs as we navigate through a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 976,000 Americans.
Despite these demonstrated strengths, the health data utility model faces two key challenges, which include:
- Funding isn’t treated like critical infrastructure. Instead, it’s programmatic in nature, which means that HIEs lack ongoing, clear, and sustainable funding through public health and Medicaid infrastructure.
- Clear expectations and policy guidance. Both are needed to clarify the roles and opportunities for HIEs in our roles as health data utilities when we provide clinical information with public health departments and health care providers.
Morgan Honea is president of the CSRI board of directors. CSRI is a collection of the nation’s largest and most robust nonprofit health data networks that connect over 80 million records for patients across several states and provide a wide range of services to health care organizations. He’s also executive vice president at Contexture, an HIE serving Colorado and Arizona.