Health Data Exchange: Everything You Wanted to Know

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Healthcare, Master Data Management

Graphic representation of health data exchange.

In a recent study, three-quarters of physicians who participated in health data exchanges – also known as health information exchanges – reported experiencing improvements in quality of care, practice efficiency, and overall patient outcomes as a result. At the same time, the same group of physicians also noted that 70% of their referral networks could not exchange digital information efficiently. With the expansion of health data exchanges offering so many valuable benefits in patient care and reduced costs, healthcare organizations must promote a better understanding of data exchange systems and encourage their adoption throughout the healthcare ecosystem of hospitals, clinics, labs, and insurance providers. 

The Healthcare industry’s interest in health data exchange solutions is growing. The global healthcare information exchange market had a value of $318.5 million in Q4 of 2021 and is on pace to cap $638 million by 2028, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.1% for the duration of the forecast period. A growing body of research and data connecting the facilitated electronic exchange of health data between organizations to better patient care and bottom-line benefits is driving investment in this area. 

In this guide, you’ll learn what health data exchange is and how the authorized exchange of patient health data delivers improved outcomes. 

Key Takeaways:
  • The real-time digital exchange of patient data through health data exchanges holds the promise of significant improvements to the quality of care and reduced costs. 
  • Health data exchanges allow participating organizations to deliver comprehensive patient data to care providers by connecting all known records.
  • Health data exchanges can improve operation efficiency, reduce errors and redundancies, and contribute to better patient outcomes.



    What Is Health Data Exchange?


    Illustration of how health data exchanges work.
    Image Source:

    Health data exchange refers to the digital transmission of healthcare data among healthcare providers, health information companies, and monitoring government agencies. Health data exchange aims to ensure the secure, authorized access and retrieval of patients’ comprehensive health information so that organizations can deliver more informed care faster and at a lower cost to both the organization and the patient. In industry parlance, health data exchange – or health information exchange – may refer to exchanging healthcare data digitally or companies that platform those exchanges. 

    Health data exchange originates in the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) created by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in 2004. Healthcare organizations adopted the standards of the NHIN to ensure standardized, secure practices for health data exchanges at both the local and national levels. 

    In health data exchange programs, participating organizations agree to exchange health data with other participating organizations, match records to patients across organizations without national identifiers, and respond to requests from other organizations according to applicable data privacy regulations. 

    Primary Benefits of Health Data Exchange

    Health data exchange enables care coordination between providers. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality – one of the twelve agencies within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – defines coordinated care as “the deliberate organization of patient care activities between two or more participants involved in a patient’s care to facilitate the appropriate delivery of healthcare services.” With a focus on enhanced inter-organizational communication, health data exchange gives healthcare providers a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health within a narrow timeframe, enabling data-driven decisions. 

    This enhanced view delivers several distinct benefits.

    1. Accuracy

    Health data exchange reduces the chance of medical errors and introduces an additional safeguard layer by giving care providers access to critical patient data they would not otherwise have. In particular, health data exchanges radically lower the chance of adverse drug interactions caused by duplicate prescriptions and unknown interactions.

    2. Improved Efficiency

    Exchanging information in a digital format eliminates the need for paper hard copies and reduces the risk of lost records. While most organizations still consider faxing a secure form of information exchange, the result is the existence of multiple paper copies in different locations, compounding the risk of unauthorized exposure. 

    3. Reduced Redundancy

    Recent studies show that approximately 21% of all healthcare laboratory testing is redundant or unwarranted. Real-time access to complete patient data through health data exchanges helps prevent unnecessary tests and procedures. 

    4. Reduced Cost


    Healthcare spending accounts for 18% of GPD.
    Image Source:

    In the U.S. in 2022, overall healthcare spending accounts for 18.1% of the total GDP, and the percentage is rising year after year. To prevent large portions of the population from losing access to healthcare – or skipping care and procedures they should receive – healthcare organizations need to leverage all possible tools to keep costs down. By improving the speed and accuracy of care and reducing redundancies, health data exchanges contribute to cost reductions at multiple points in the larger healthcare system. 

    How Health Data Exchanges Work

    Health data exchanges come in three architecture types: 

    • Centralized: In centralized systems, the health data exchange collects all records from participating organizations and stores them in a single repository, granting requests to authorized users. 
    • Decentralized or Federated: In decentralized arrangements, all participant organizations keep their records in their databases, maintaining legal responsibility and liability. They then grant access to other participant organizations as needed. 
    • Hybrid: Hybrid health data exchanges store some records in a centralized repository and others in the organization’s databases. 

    Like other data and file-sharing systems, health data exchanges employ two methods of information exchange. These are pull requests and push requests. 

    When a provider queries patient information from a centralized repository or participating databases, this is a pull request. 

    When a participant organization sends a record such as a lab result or electronic health record (EHR), this constitutes a push request, meaning that the sending authority would like to push information into the recipient’s database.


    Healthcare Master Data Management With Coperor by Gaine

    Coperor’s healthcare-focused master data management platform integrates data from sources across your organization and your contracted partners, enabling real-time health data exchange with dependable quality. With unparalleled data modeling designed specifically for the healthcare industry’s unique needs, Coperor can deliver a single source of truth in an increasingly complex data exchange environment. 

    To learn more and schedule a live demo, contact Gaine today. 


    Opt-in with Gaine for More Insight

    Keep ahead of the rest with critical insight into Healthcare and Life Sciences MDM and interoperability technique, best practices, and the latest solutions.