No Surprises Found By the Government Accountability Office: Sharing Personal Health Information Through Health Information Exchanges Improves Patient Care Corridors Spring 2010

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On February 17, 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its Report to Congressional Committees on Electronic Personal Health Information Exchange (GAO-10-361), a study initiated to promote the use of information technology for the electronic exchange of health information among providers and other health care entities involved in the delivery of health care services. The many benefits of appropriate and well-designed electronic exchange of health information motivated Congress to pass the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to incentivize the adoption of technology to promote such electronic information exchange. While the GAO study does not provide particularly unexpected results, the report confirms the common adoption by health information exchanges (HIEs) of seven elements of the Fair Information Practices underlying the regulations and policies of the Health Insurance Portability and Profitability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and validates the purpose of HIE and electronic information exchange.

The study focused on case studies of four HIEs of approximately 60 HIEs reported to be operational. Within these case studies, the GAO also studied a selection of the providers identified as active participants in the HIEs. Additionally, the GAO interviewed two integrated health care delivery systems, two professional associations and a state electronic health collaborative. The study took place between May 2009 and February 2010.

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