Health care providers store larger amounts of more complex patient information with each day, leading to an exponential growth of data that must be properly secured, managed and utilized to provide better quality care at more affordable prices. Health information exchanges work to reach this goal by improving interoperability among doctors and hospitals. Separately, these organizations can do great things in the world of health care IT, but when they combine forces, the potential for advancement is even higher. That's why some 20 HIEs have come together to form the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative, or SHIEC.

What is the the SHIEC's mission?
As HIT Consultant reported, about two dozen HIEs have joined together to create this new trade organization. The focus of the SHIEC is to support the advancement of member HIEs through the exchange of methodologies, tactics and ideas for enhancing interoperability. It also strives to educate the public about the important role that IT plays in the medical realm, from making files accessible among multiple hospitals to safeguarding private patient information.

As Dick Thompson, executive director of Quality Health Network in Colorado (one of the first HIEs in the country) and chair of the SHIEC, explained to Becker's Hospital Review, the organization hopes to provide a wide array of services for the benefit of both providers and patients.

"We believe that there are valuable services that a national consortium can provide to member HIEs such as achieving economies of scale, promoting business models for the sustainability of HIEs, educating and increasing awareness of HIEs among public and private entities, providing opportunities for the establishment of joint ventures and collaborating to inform legislators and policy makers of the benefits to the communities served by our members," Thompson said. "In addition, we would like a trade organization that speaks for HIEs exclusively and is focused solely on helping HIEs fulfill their community mission."

More about the Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative
The HIEs that make up the SHEIC have been meeting unofficially at industry conferences as well as via monthly conference calls for the past two years, addressing issues regarding interoperability, data security and other hot topics. Currently, the following organizations have been confirmed as members of this consortium:

  • Quality Health Network
  • HealtheLINK
  • Healthbridge
  • Arizona Health-e Connection
  • Nebraska Health Information Initiative
  • NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Utah Health Information Network

The full list will not be announced until all organizations that have expressed interest in being part of the SHIEC pay the dues and officially join. The collaborative is expected to make an announcement in January 2015 after its website has been completed and an executive director has been recruited.

What does this mean for the health care industry?
The development of this extensive and powerful organization is a testament to the rapidly growing importance of HIEs and interoperability in general. It also indicates a desire on the part of health care providers to work together in collaboration rather than exist as enemies in a world of strict competition. As Thompson went on to tell Becker's, this new trade organization hopes to that more HIEs sharing the same principle - that working together can reap greater rewards - will join the SHIEC and work toward heightening interoperability through innovative platforms. For instance, the sharing of clinical images through HIEs can aid this effort, as they can allow doctors to share X-rays with others so that duplicate scans are avoided. Clinical archiving systems can make this possible.

News brought to you by TeraMedica, Inc., leaders in health care enterprise imaging (VNA) solutions.