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The Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange: Lessons Learned

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Publication Date: August 2007

Publisher(s): California HealthCare Foundation

Author(s): Robert H. Miller; Bradley S. Miller

Topic: Health (Health services administration)

Type: Report

Coverage: California


Regional health data exchange can improve the quality, clinical efficiency, and safety of health care by making patient data more readily available to hospitals, physicians, and other providers at the point of care. But regional health information organizations (RHIOs) are relatively new and face significant challenges in becoming operational and sustainable. CHCF has published a comprehensive, independent evaluation of the Santa Barbara County Care Data Exchange, one of the nation's first RHIOs, which ceased operations on December 31, 2006. Despite its closure, the project helped to focus national attention on the value of health information exchange, which led to the federal government's adoption of a plan to establish RHIOs throughout the United States. The CHCF report provides a detailed history of Santa Barbara's data exchange; examines the organizational, technical, and legal factors leading to its closure; and considers the policy implications for nascent RHIOs elsewhere. Although the venture had developed a peer-to-peer technology infrastructure that enabled authorized physicians, health care organizations, and consumers in the region to access some electronic patient information securely via the Internet, the data exchange was unable to overcome major hurdles and thrive. The authors cite lack of a compelling business case, distorted economic incentives, passive leadership among participants, vendor limitations, software delays, and privacy and security issues as factors that played a significant role in the project's eventual closure.