A survey of more than 2,300 hospitals concludes that there's fertile ground across the country for the development of community health information networks.
The results are less conclusive about how many CHIN seeds are being planted.
The yearlong effort by Chicago-based Sheldon I. Dorenfest & Associates polled chief information officers at 2,314 acute-care, nonfederal hospitals of 100 beds or more.
While the focus of the survey was on measuring the prevalence of CHIN development and planning, it also looked at other activities that illustrate the scope of healthcare integration.
Of the respondents, 28% said they were part of a CHIN or they had formed alliances or joint ventures with other providers such as physicians or other hospitals.
Another 14% said they weren't part of a CHIN, alliance or joint venture but were planning such a move. One in four respondents said they had no plans to be part of a CHIN or alliance, and 34% gave no response or said they didn't know.
The poll was taken between October 1993 and September 1994. Findings were presented at a conference earlier this month conducted by the Community Medical Network Society, an Atlanta-based association that fosters the development of CHINs.
Mitchell I. Work, senior vice president at Dorenfest, said the survey intentionally took a broad measure to capture any activity that could lead to development of CHINs. He said the results are proof that comprehensive healthcare integration is "not something people are simply talking about."
The breadth of the survey sample also "tends to confirm the fact that there's a lot of consolidation going on in the healthcare industry," he said.
That consolidation appeared to gain momentum during the year the survey was conducted, Mr. Work said. Halfway through the poll period, results showed about 34% of respondents had either joined or were planning to join a CHIN or alliance. An upturn during the second six months boosted the final proportion to 42%, he said.
Geographically, interest in CHINs and alliances was spread about equally among the four regions into which results were grouped. By size, 47% of hospitals of 500 beds or more were part of a CHIN or alliance.
Substantial interest also was detected among smaller hospitals, Mr. Work said. Among facilities of 100 to 199 beds, 23% were part of a partnership. And 61% of all hospitals reporting they were part of a partnership were smaller hospitals.