How HIEs can reduce repeat imaging, save money

Physicians with access to a health information exchange order fewer repeat imaging tests, which leads to moderate savings, according to research in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College studied records of 12,620 patients in western New York state whose health information was shared in a 13-county region between 2009 and 2010, according to an announcement.

They looked at those who had imaging done, then saw a physician within 90 days. The researchers estimated that $32,460 in repeat imaging was averted during this period, a $2.57 savings per patient. While less-expensive procedures, such as X-rays, were more likely to be skipped the second time around, the biggest savings came from more expensive procedures.

"Although these estimated savings are moderate, we covered broad populations and used data from the exchange that indicated whether a provider actually accessed a patient's health information," Mark Unruh, M.D., an assistant professor of healthcare policy and research at Weill Cornell said in the announcement.

He said future research should include populations such as Medicare and Medicaid users and tests outside of radiology.

Weill Cornell researchers previously reported that between 9 percent and 40 percent of all medical imaging--including ultrasounds, CTs, MRIs and mammograms--are repeated, regardless of the reason. Previous research found that providers using an HIE were 25 percent less likely to perform the same imaging test again as their peers.

A previous literature review also found that clinical decision support in electronic health records can improve the appropriate use of diagnostic testing and reduce overall use by a small amount.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract
- read the announcement