Study: HIEs Help Reduce Unnecessary Medical Imaging Up to 25%

February 19, 2015 in News

The use of health information exchanges can reduce the odds that a patient will undergo unnecessary repeat imaging by up to 25%, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, Clinical Innovation Technology reports (Godt, Clinical Innovation Technology, 2/13).


Imaging procedures can be costly and time consuming, Health IT Analytics reports.

According to Joshua Vest — assistant professor of health care policy and research at Weill Cornell Medical College and lead author of the study — unnecessary or repeat imaging “could potentially delay access for patients who truly need the tests” (Bresnick, Health IT Analytics, 1/15).

Details of Study

The researchers investigated the timing and frequency of repeat images in a community-based setting and the effect an HIE would have on reducing the occurrence of such procedures. Researchers focused on a cohort of 196,314 patients in 11 New York counties (Clinical Innovation Technology, 2/13).

They used claims data from two major insurance plans and information from the Rochester Regional Health Information Organization.

Researchers compared image ordering among providers connected to the HIE with those who were not connected to the HIE (Health IT Analytics, 1/15).


The study found that:

  • 18% of patients had one or more imaging procedure between 2009 and 2010; and
  • 7.7% of images were repeated over the course of a 90-day period.

In addition, researchers found that 5% of patients with providers who used the HIE had repeat images, compared with 8% of patients with providers that did not access the HIE (Clinical Innovation Technology, 2/13).

The most commonly repeated images were:

  • Ultrasounds;
  • X-rays; and
  • Mammograms.

The least commonly repeated tests were:

  • CT scans; and
  • MRIs (Health IT Analytics, 1/15).


The researchers said the findings “demonstrat[e] that a community-wide portal is effective for reducing the frequency of repeat imaging,” adding that such changes potentially could improve care quality and reduce costs.

Vest said the research “may be highly generalizable because it took place in a multi-player, multi-provider community that used a commercially available HIE system.”

In addition, the study noted there are other interventions — such as clinical decision support systems — that have been said to reduce unnecessary imaging. However, the researchers said such tools still are emerging and might not be widely available in some areas (Clinical Innovation Technology, 2/13).

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