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Defining Health Information Exchange: Scoping Review of Published Definitions

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-764
Number of pages80
JournalJournal of Innovation in Health Informatics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2017


The term Health Information Exchange (HIE) is often used in health informatics, yet uncertainties remain about its precise meaning. This study aimed to capture and analyse existing definitions in order to map variations in its use and the concepts associated with it.

Systematic literature search to identify published definitions of HIE and equivalent terms such as Clinical Information Exchange. Medline, Web of Science, Library Information Science and Technology Abstracts, EMBASE and CINAHL Plus were searched to identify relevant research, and Google to identify grey literature. Searches were not limited by language or date of publication. In order to warrant inclusion documents had to either define the concept explicitly or do so via a concrete description. Included references were tabulated by author affiliation, source of quote, year of publication, country of origin and definitions and the definitions themselves were analysed thematically.

Searches revealed 603 scientific articles and 5981 website links. From these, a total of 268 unique definitions of HIE were identified and extracted: 103 from scientific databases and 165 from Google. Eleven constructs emerged from the thematic analysis. Contextual factors influenced the emphasis of the definitions and the framing of HIE as a concept/process, a set of enabling technologies, or an entity/organisation.

HIE is a complex and evolving concept and uses of the term vary across settings, presenting challenges for communication. Developing a generic term is difficult, given the importance of context, but the authors suggest one covering key attributes of HIE, which may be helpful.

    Research areas

  • eHealth, health informatics, health information exchange, scoping review

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