Is HIE responsible for lower test utilization?

Does health information exchange actually have an effect on utilization of healthcare services? That's a question the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center will attempt to answer by analyzing data from a nearby HIE to determine if better physician access to patient data at the point of care is the reason for a reduction in diagnostic tests.

With the help of a one-year Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Denver-based school will study data collected by the Quality Health Network, Grand Junction, Colo., from the time the HIE went live in October 2005 through the end of 2008. According to Healthcare IT News, QHN noted that test utilization was 50 percent higher among patients 65 and older whose medical histories were not available on the HIE than those whose data were not. Utilization stayed relatively flat or even declined for those on the network.

"We expect the study's results to show the HIE is responsible, and the impact on cost will reflect real dollars saved on a per-member, per-month basis," QHN Executive Director and CEO Dick Thompson tells the publication.

Meanwhile, QHN is growing. It now serves communities across much of western Colorado and into eastern Utah, and physician adoption of the network in the Aspen and Montrose areas--added in 2009--is growing faster than in the original service area of Mesa County, Colo. The HIE is adding tools for population management, including registries of patients with chronic diseases, and is developing a new registry for preventive testing.

"We want to supply and build tools for doctors to help them identify the at-risk population and gaps in evidence-based medicine guidelines for appropriate care of those patients," Thompson explains.

For more, including details on QHN's participation in the Beacon Communities Program:
- take a look at this Healthcare IT News story