Widespread use of HIEs would save Medicare $63M

New research shows health information exchanges (HIEs) cut down on redundant and unnecessary medical tests by giving physicians access to a patient’s current medical history.

Eliminating that redundancy led to significant cost-savings. So much so that researchers estimated Medicare could save $63 million annually in outpatient therapeutic procedure costs.

The study, authored by Niam Yaraghi, a fellow at The Brookings Institution, and several colleagues at the University of Connecticut and the State University of New York at Buffalo, evaluated data from HEALTHeLINK, a regional HIE in western New York. The authors limited their scope to procedures performed in the physician’s office, diverging from previous studies that have focused on the emergency department.

The results of the study showed that physicians with access to HIE data repeated therapeutic medical procedures less frequently. There was no impact on diagnostic procedures, although the authors noted that the data on diagnostic procedures in HEALTHeLINK is “comparatively limited.”

“To our knowledge, this is among the first studies that provide evidence for the effectiveness of HIE usage in the office settings,” the researchers wrote. “In addition, by separate analyzing of diagnostic and therapeutic medical procedures, we have also shown that the HIE does not impact different types of medical procedures in the same way.”

RELATED: States look to boost HIE initiatives with federal funding

States have experienced various degrees of success using HIEs. Some provide real-time updates to assist clinicians with care decisions or improve patient matching. However, the number of public HIEs has been declining over the last several years, prompting providers to invest in privately-run HIEs.