(HealthDay News) — Health information exchanges (HIEs) are valuable for providers and patients, and their use may reduce emergency department usage and costs, according to a review published in the December 2 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Robert S. Rudin, PhD, from the RAND Corporation in Boston, and colleagues conducted a systematic review and examined evidence of the use and effect of HIEs on clinical care. Data were obtained from selected databases from January 1, 2003, to May 31, 2014.

The researchers found that HIE use had an effect in terms of reduced use or costs in the emergency department, based on low-quality evidence from 12 hypothesis-testing studies. Twenty-one studies involving 13 distinct HIE organizations provided direct evidence that providers used HIEs; usage was generally seen in <10% of patient encounters. Based on 17 studies of sustainability, about one-quarter of existing HIE organizations considered themselves to be financially stable. Providers, patients, and other stakeholders considered HIEs to be valuable based on findings from 38 studies, but barriers to use included technical and workflow issues, costs, and privacy concerns.

“Health information exchange use probably reduces emergency department usage and costs in some cases,” the authors write. “A small portion of operational HIEs have been evaluated, and more research is needed to identify and understand success factors.”

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