Study Finds HIE Use Could Prevent Duplicative Tests, Save Money

February 20, 2014 in News

Physicians’ failure to use patient data available through a health information exchange in Western New York resulted in nearly 2,800 duplicate CT scans and additional costs of about $1 million, according to a new study from HEALTHeLINK, Healthcare IT News reports (McCann, Healthcare IT News, 2/17).

HEALTHeLINK is the health information exchange that serves hospitals, insurers, physicians and other medical professionals across eight counties in Western New York (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 2/18).

Study Details

For the study, HEALTHeLINK analyzed 2011 and 2012 claims data from the three largest health insurers in the region, all of which participated in the HIE. The insurers were:

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York;
  • Independent Health; and
  • Univera Healthcare (Healthcare IT News, 2/17).

Specifically, the researchers examined HIE data on duplicate CT scans, or those performed on a patient’s same body part within a six-month period (FierceHealthIT, 2/18). The duplicate CT scans were divided into three categories:

  • Known, accounting for 3,361 scans;
  • Inconclusive, accounting for 1,878 scans; and
  • Unknown, accounting for 885 scans.

Study Findings

The researchers exempted the known CT scans and identified a total of 2,763 potentially duplicative CT scans, resulting in $1.3 million in unnecessary costs (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 2/17).

The report also found that 90% of the potentially duplicative CT scans were ordered by physicians who never or only infrequently used HEALTHeLINK to research patients’ clinical data (Healthcare IT News, 2/17).

According to the report, consulting data through the HIE could have prevented 48.2% of the duplicative scans from being performed, based on the number of patients who had agreed to let the HIE make their medical information available for physician queries (EHR Intelligence, 2/17).

Editorial Praises HIE Benefits

A Buffalo News editorial argues that the HEALTHeLINK study “provides compelling evidence” that the benefits of shared electronic medical information outweigh the “daunting and expensive” switch to electronic health records.

The editorial notes that HIEs can prevent wasteful spending, as well as prevent potentially “life-threatening” prescription drug dispensing errors and prescription drug misuse.

However, the editorial states that “electronic records need to be well-protected … because any [security] breach will jeopardize the promise that electronic medical record-keeping holds” (Buffalo News, 2/17).

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