HIE 101
SHIEC and our member HIEs regularly get asked questions about what HIEs are and what role they play in supporting patient care. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive, and we will continue to build on this information repository over time.

Health information exchange can either be a verb or a noun. As a verb, health information exchange is the process of sharing health information electronically. As a noun, a health information exchange, or HIE, is an organization that provides technology and services to allow their stakeholders to securely share health information. These HIE organizations work within their communities to promote secure health data sharing. HIEs comprise SHIEC’s membership.

HIEs come in many different varieties: statewide, regional and community; government-run, for-profit and non-profit; large and small; and hybrids that involve collaborations among diverse organizations. What they all have in common is that they do not provide health care services, produce health care data or compete in the marketplace. Instead, they help disparate health care systems share vital health information to advance better care, better outcomes and lower costs.

As the unbiased data trustees in their communities, HIEs manage and provide for the secure digital exchange of data by medical, behavioral, and social service providers to improve the health of the communities they serve.

Health information exchanges (HIEs) support patient care in many important ways, including:

  • Serving as an unbiased community data trustee for health information
  • Connecting health care systems, private HIEs and independent providers
  • Filling gaps in patient health information for more comprehensive patient records
  • Providing real-time access to patient information for better clinical coordination and decisions
  • Improving the quality, safety, efficiency and reliability of care  

HIEs are the vanguards of health IT in their respective communities. For example, HIEs are currently doing compelling work in integrating organizations focused on behavioral health and substance abuse into their broader health IT interoperability networks. They are looking beyond simply integrating electronic health records (EHRs) and pharmacy systems to inclusively account for all types of care organizations, ranging from health researchers to nursing homes.

The work in expanding interoperability services helps HIEs support better care for patients by helping ensure physicians have all relevant information they need to provide the best possible care.

In addition to individual HIEs expanding their coverage in their respective regions, collectively HIEs have been able to work together on initiatives to improve nationwide interoperability. SHIEC’s recently launched Patient Centered Data Home™ (PCDH) initiative is a significant nationwide interoperability effort that allows for alerting and record sharing among HIEs when patients require treatment outside of their local area.