Study Finds Lack of Evidence That HIEs Boost Care Quality, Cut Costs

March 4, 2015 in News

There is little evidence demonstrating that health information exchanges help to reduce costs or improve the quality of care, according to a new study published in Health Affairs, FierceHealthIT reports.

Study Details

For the study, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and Indiana University analyzed 27 scientific studies that consisted of 94 individual HIE analyses. The researchers then determined whether or not there was a beneficial relationship between the HIE and outcomes for each analysis (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 3/3).

Study Findings

According to the study, about 66% of hospitals and nearly 50% of physician practices use some form of HIE to share data with outside organizations.

The researchers found:

  • About 57% of examined analyses reported some type of outcomes benefit related to HIE;
  • Nearly 32% reported no significant effect on outcomes; and
  • About 11% reported a negative effect on health care outcomes (Rahurkar et al, Health Affairs, March 2015).

However, the six strongest studies, including randomized controlled trials and quasi-experiments, were less likely to associate HIEs with benefits. Specifically, the authors noted:

  • Two studies found positive effects;
  • Three found no effect; and
  • One found negative effects (Gold et al., Politico‘s “Morning eHealth” 3/3).

The researchers wrote, “Despite the abundance of observational studies finding a beneficial relationship between HIE and outcomes, there is currently no strong evidence to suggest that HIE is causally related to any widespread generalizable benefits.”

The researchers noted that the “scarcity” of randomized control trials could have caused the benefits of HIEs in real-world settings to be overestimated or underestimated. They added the continued use of such systems could improve evaluations of HIEs (FierceHealthIT, 3/3).

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