A population ecology perspective on the functioning and future of health information organizations

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Abstract

Background:

Increasingly, health care providers need to exchange information to meet policy expectations and business needs. A variety of health information organizations (HIOs) provide services to facilitate health information exchange (HIE). However, the future of these organizations is unclear.

Purpose:

The aim of this study was to explore the environmental context, potential futures, and survivability of community HIOs, enterprise HIEs, and electronic health record vendor-mediated exchange using the population ecology theory.

Approach:

Qualitative interviews with 33 key informants representing each type of HIE organization were analyzed using template analysis.

Results:

Community HIOs, enterprise HIEs, and electronic health record vendors exhibited a high degree of competition for resources, especially in the area of exchange infrastructure services. Competition resulted in closures in some areas. In response to environmental pressures, each organizational type was endeavoring to differentiate its services and unique use case, as well as pursing symbiotic relationships or attempting resource partitioning.

Conclusion:

HIOs compete for similar resources and are reacting to environmental pressures to better position themselves for continued survival and success. Our ecological research perspective helps move the discourse away from situation of a single exchange organization type toward a view of the broader dynamics and relationships of all organizations involved in facilitating HIE activities.

Practice Implications:

HIOs are attempting to partition the environment and differentiate services. HIE options should not be construed as an “either/or” decision, but one where multiple and complementary participation may be required.

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