The state of Pennsylvania has nearly 250 hospitals with some 13 million people spread across 67 counties—statistics which lead to a significant need to make sure that when a patient sees a Pennsylvania provider or goes to the hospital, the most updated information is readily available.

To help spur health information exchange (HIE) progress in the state, the Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Authority is responsible for the creation and maintenance of Pennsylvania’s HIE, known as the PA Patient & Provider Network, or P3N. The P3N network—composed of healthcare providers, regional health information exchanges, health insurance care coordinators, and public health agencies—helps providers find their patients’ medical records—in real time—anywhere on the P3N network, its officials say. Regional networks electronically connect healthcare providers to each other, and in turn, these HIEs connect to the P3N hub to enable statewide health information exchange.

Throughout Pennsylvania, there are five state-approved regional HIEs that operate under the eHealth Partnership Authority, of which the leaders of two of them—the Keystone Health Information Exchange (KeyHIE) and the HealthShare Exchange of Southeastern Pennsylvania (HSX)—were interviewed for this article. HSX is now five years into existence, and operates in the Philadelphia metro area connecting some 40 hospitals; KeyHIE was founded by Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health System in 2005, making it one of the oldest HIEs in the nation, and now connects 18 hospitals and 400 facilities overall.

The two organizations have separately, but also collaboratively, made real strides in increasing their networks and the volume of the data being exchanged. Between 2011 and 2017, the number of unique patients with health records in KeyHIE grew from 2.1 million to 4.75 million; meanwhile, HSX, which actually only started exchanging data on its network in 2013, now has more than 5 million patient records right now in its clinical data repository, up from zero just a few years back.

Indeed, the state has had some real success in being able to effectively exchange data, an area of healthcare that has had its fair share of struggles to date other than in a few pockets across the U.S. Rather, stakeholders have encountered barrier after barrier, from creating a value proposition for the provider community it serves; to getting stakeholders to agree on governance and policies; to developing standards; to determining how to exchange information with competing organizations; and more. As such, the number of skeptics who believe that HIEs can be financially sustainable has only increased in recent years.

Read more at the Health Informatics site here.