What Affects Clinicians' Usage of Health Information Exchange?

Published In: Applied Clinical Informatics, v. 2, no. 3, Jan. 2011, p. 250-262

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2011

by Robert S. Rudin, Lynn A. Volk, Steven Simon, David W. Bates

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BACKGROUND: The ability to electronically exchange health information among healthcare providers holds enormous promise to improve care coordination and reduce costs. Provider-to-provider data exchange is an explicit goal of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and may be essential for the long-term success of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. However, little is known about what factors affect clinicians' usage of health information exchange (HIE) functionality. OBJECTIVE: To identify factors that affect clinicians' HIE usage - in terms of frequency of contributing data to and accessing data from aggregate patient records - and suggest policies for fostering its usage. METHODS: We performed a qualitative study using grounded theory by interviewing clinician-users and HIE staff of one operational HIE which supported aggregate patient record functionality. Fifteen clinicians were interviewed for one hour each about what factors affect their HIE usage. Five HIE staff were asked about technology and training issues to provide context. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed. Recruitment excluded clinicians with little or no familiarity with the HIE and was restricted to one community and a small number of specialties. RESULTS: Clinicians were motivated to access the HIE by perceived improvements in care quality and time savings, but their motivation was moderated by an extensive list of factors including gaps in data, workflow issues and usability issues. HIE access intensities varied widely by clinician. Data contribution intensities to the HIE also varied widely and were affected by billing concerns and time constraints. CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians, EHR and HIE product vendors and trainers should work toward integrating HIE into clinical workflows. Policies should create incentives for HIE organizations to assist clinicians in using HIE, develop measures of HIE contributions and accesses, and create incentives for clinicians to contribute data to HIEs.

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