Background: As more hospitals adopt Electronic Health Records (EHR), focus has shifted to how these records can be used to improve patient care. One barrier to this improvement is limited information exchange between providers. In this work we examine the role of EHR vendors, hypothesizing that vendors strategically control the exchange of clinical care summaries. Their strategy may involve the creation of networks that easily exchange information between providers with the same vendor but frustrate exchange between providers with different vendors, even as both Federal and State policies attempt to incentivize exchange through a common format. Methods: Using data from the 2013 American Hospital Association's Information Technology Supplement, we examine the relationship between a hospital's decision to share clinical care summaries outside of their network and EHR vendor market share, measured by the percentage of hospitals that have the same vendor in a Hospital Referral Region. Results: Our findings show that the likelihood of a hospital exchanging clinical summaries with hospitals outside its health system increases as the percentage of hospitals with the same EHR vendor in the region increases. The estimated odds of a hospital sharing clinical care summaries outside their system is 5.4 (95% CI, 3.29-8.80) times greater if all hospitals in the Hospital Referral Region use the same EHR Vendor than the corresponding odds for a hospital in an area with no hospitals using the same EHR Vendor. When reviewing the relationship of vendor market concentration at the state level we find a positive significant relationship with the percentage of hospitals that share clinical care summaries within a state. We find no significant impact from state policies designed to incentivize information exchange through the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Program. Conclusion: There are benefits to exchanging using proprietary methods that are strengthened when the vendors are more concentrated. In order to avoid closed networks that foreclose some hospitals, it is important that future regulation attempt to be more inclusive of hospitals that do not use large vendors and are therefore unable to use proprietary methods for exchange.
Castillo, A. F., Sirbu, M., & Davis, A. L. (2018). Vendor of choice and the effectiveness of policies to promote health information exchange. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3230-7