Health information exchange tools can fill in gaps in patient care and reduce unnecessary tests in hospital emergency departments, according to new research published in the journal Applied Clinical Informatics.
The study, conducted by Minneapolis-based Allina Health, examined the utility of a point-to-point HIE tool called Care Everywhere embedded in its electronic health record system. The study looked at the exchange of clinical information among four of Allina's twelve hospitals: Abbott Northwestern, United, Mercy and Unity.
The tool was used in about 1.46 percent of the ED encounters.
The researchers found that the tool had the greatest impact on avoiding duplicative diagnostic testing and the identification of drug seeking behavior: the EDs were able to avoid 560 duplicate procedures, such as blood work and imaging, and identified 28 patients seeking drugs.
A survey of involved physicians also reported that other information received via the tool was of value, including medication lists, discharge summaries and ECG interpretations. Nurses and ancillary providers also found the tool of value, although they were somewhat less "enthusiastic" than the physicians were.
"Care Everywhere has become a valuable tool as our department strives to be efficient with the patient's time and avoid repeat testing and duplicate costs," Paul Satterlee, an emergency medicine physician at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, said in a statement.
Similar research out of Weill Cornell Medical College found that use of an HIE system could reduce hospitalizations from the emergency department and save money. That research also was published in Applied Clinical Informatics.
While HIEs do have several challenges to overcome, especially as they connect non-affiliated providers, from a clinical standpoint they are proving useful in lowering costs and improving outcomes. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently was chastised by the Government Accountability Office for not doing more to accelerate data exchange.