In March, the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology finished doling out $548 million in economic stimulus funds for 56 states and territories to establish state health information exchanges that will leverage the work of existing HIEs, fill remaining data exchange gaps and connect to the emerging nationwide health information network. The effort will be led by "state-designated entities" charged with overseeing development of links that enable every state provider to have access to patient records created and stored elsewhere.

The infusion of more than a half-billion dollars certainly is helping states jump-start HIE activities. But while the concept of HIEs has been around to some degree for three decades, acceptance hasn't come close to approaching a critical mass.

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