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Advancing secure and interoperable exchange is a core component of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020 and the focus of the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap. A key goal of both plans is to increase interoperable exchange of health information across the care continuum, and advance better care, spending health care dollars more wisely, and a healthier nation by enabling providers and individuals to send, find, receive, and use health information when and where it matters most.

Results from the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Annual Health IT Supplement, a nationwide survey of non-federal acute care hospitals, highlight a surge in health information exchange compared to previous years. In 2014, three-quarters of hospitals reported that they electronically exchanged health information with outside ambulatory providers or hospitals. This represents a 23 percent increase since 2013 and an 85 percent increase since 2008, the year AHA started collecting this information.

Hospital-to-Hospital Electronic Health Information Exchange Substantially Increased

AHAs survey captures information on exchange of health information between hospitals and ambulatory providers that are not part of the hospital’s organization. Health information that is available when, where, and how it is needed can greatly improve care coordination, leading to better health outcomes.

Our past analysis showed steady growth among hospitals with both trading partners; however, we found substantial deficits with hospital-to-hospital exchange. Prior research studies suggested that this was due to competition and a weak business model. And our prior results substantiated those findings. However, now this gap is rapidly closing.

  • In 2014, more than six in ten hospitals electronically exchanged health information with outside hospitals, a one-year increase of 55 percent.
  • Close to seven in ten hospitals (69 percent) exchanged health information with outside ambulatory providers, a 21 percent increase since 2014. This growth in both measures now puts the gap between them at a mere 7 percentage points.

Clinical Care Summary Exchange Accelerated

We also examined the types of information hospitals exchanged with outside providers, which include laboratory results, radiology reports, clinical care summaries, and medication history.

Our prior research found that exchange among all data types have increased since 2011; however, we also observed a gap in regards to the type of data exchanged. In last year’s data brief, we reported that hospitals exchanged laboratory results and radiology reports at much higher rates than clinical care summaries and medication lists. Now this gap has shrunk significantly. Each measure is no more than four percentage points from one another; except for medication histories, which still fall a little behind (though closer than previous years).

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