Health Information Exchanges

health information exchange, HIE, EHRs

Health Information Exchanges are already showing benefits for both the patient and for hospitals.  Patients who had digitally shared medical information and arrived at emergency rooms were less likely to have medical scans repeated.  Physicians could just use the record already in the system.

A health information exchange (HIE) is a database that can share patient records electronically no matter where the patient seeks care.

The study by University of Michigan researchers was published in the journal Medical Care.  The study focused only on scans and did not look for other medical tests routinely performed in ERs.

When information was shared, patients were:

  • 67% less likely to have a repeated chest X-ray
  • 59% less likely to have a redundant CT Scan
  • 44% less likely to have a duplicate ultrasound

Researchers looked at data in Florida and California over a period from 2007 through 2010.  Even though HIEs have saved patients from unnecessary scans there is still a lot of repeat scanning.   For example, in total:

  • 20,139 patients had repeat CT scans
  • 13,060 patients had repeat ultrasounds
  • 29,703 patients had repeat chest X-rays

The researchers estimated that $19 million could be saved annually on a national level with these types of tests, but our research indicates it could be much higher.

If we look at CT scans, about 52 million scans are performed each year, making them one of the most common medical tests.  The researchers discovered in their sample that 14.7% of CT scans were unnecessarily repeated.  If that number were calculated nationally that would mean 7.6 million unnecessary scans.  CT scans can cost anywhere from $250 to over $3,000.  If we just take the low number of $250 that would save $1.9 billion.

As a physician have you ever ordered a scan or test and then discovered later that it had recently been done?  Have you had patients tell you after the fact that a test was repeated?  Are you part of an HIE and have you successfully avoided repeating a scan or test?  If you’re an M.D. or D.O. please join our online physicians to discuss this inside Sermo.

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