The eHealth Exchange, an initiative of the non-profit Healtheway collaborative focused on advancing the implementation of interoperable nationwide health information exchange, has the distinction of being the largest HIE network in the United States.

Healtheway CEO Mariann Yeager told a HIMSS15 Health Information Exchange Symposium on Sunday that as the “largest data sharing network” the eHealth Exchange connects 30 percent of all U.S. hospitals, supports 10,000 medical groups, 8,200 pharmacies, 900 dialysis centers, four federal agencies, and more than 100 million patients around the country—about a third of America’s population.

Also See: Carequality Provides Rules of the Road for Interoperability

“We’ve had an unbelievable trajectory of growth,” said Yeager. “Production started six years ago in 2009 with four organizations, which represented a handful of hospitals and sites. When we took responsibility for the eHealth Exchange, we were able to quadruple the connectivity in a very short period of time. Today, there are 89 organizations in production and we expect that number to increase to about 150 participants this year.”  

Based in McLean, Va., the public-private Healtheway collaborative is committed to continuing to grow the connectivity as well as the utility of its network, according to Yeager. “We heard loud and clear about some of the challenges with the data, and having value from the data that’s exchanged,” she acknowledged. “To increase the utilization of the network, we know that several things need to occur. One is improving the quality and value of the data that’s being exchanged. We also know that it’s time to augment some of the functionality supported in the eHealth Exchange.”

Yeager said that the network—which uses a web services directory—is “really based upon a waning technology” and is in need of modernization. The eHealth Exchange is planning to migrate to a “federated HP directory” and is looking to include other transport protocols such as Direct and HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). 

“The focus of our work is really around addressing the practical challenges associated with enabling secure and interoperable nationwide exchange of health information,” she said. “While we haven’t solved this issue totally, there’s a phenomenal amount of work underway and phenomenal amount of success. Interoperability is not an elusive goal. There’s a ton of progress.”

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