HIEs can reduce repeat imaging tests

Providers who participate in a health information exchange (HIE) are less likely to order duplicative imaging tests, according to a study published recently in the American Journal of Managed Care.

Repeat testing increases the cost of healthcare and can adversely affect patients. Between 9 percent and 40 percent of all medical imaging--including ultrasounds, CTs, MRIs and mammograms--are repeated, regardless of the reason.

The researchers, from Weill Cornell Medical College and elsewhere, evaluated the Rochester, New York-based Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO), an HIE serving an 11-county community, to determine if HIE use affected the number of repeating imagings. They reviewed 2009-2010 data from two commercial health plans representing more than half of insured patients, who consented to the data sharing.

After examining the number of repeat imaging tests performed within 90 days of the first test, the researchers found that providers using the HIE were 25 percent less likely to perform the same imaging test again as their peers.

"When a patient comes to a radiology facility for an imaging procedure, previous similar studies often exist but are inaccessible at the point of care," the researchers said. "The federal government and many states are investing heavily in health information technology that can address this issue. ... This study demonstrates that a community-wide portal is effective for reducing the frequency of repeat imaging."

The authors also suggested that HIEs may be better than other methods, such as preauthorization, to reduce repeat imaging tests.

HIEs have come under scrutiny in recent months in the aftermath of reports of legal and operational troubles.

A few, such as Connecticut's, never got off the ground and were shut down completely. Several prominent senators have asked the Government Accountability Office to review HIEs that have received federal grants.

In addition, a recent RAND study noted that the jury was still out as to whether HIEs are delivering as promised.

To learn more:
- read the announcement