Study: HIE could save $1.3 milion in repeat CT scans

Failure to use clinical data available in the health information exchange HEALTHeLINK in Western New York led to 2,763 potentially duplicate CT scans at a cost of approximately $1.3 million, according to the HIE's new study.

The researchers took a very conservative approach, Daniel E. Porreca, HEALTHeLINK's executive director, said in an announcement, "so we believe that the potential unnecessary radiation exposure to patients and cost savings to the health system could be significantly more."

HEALTHeLINK serves hospitals, physicians, health plans and other healthcare providers to serve across eight Western New York counties.

The researchers looked at data in the system on CT scans ordered over 18 months and analyzed those done on a patient's same body part within six months. Those that clearly had been accessed before a new scan was ordered were thrown out of the study.

Among the findings:

  • Approximately 90 percent of the potentially unnecessary scans were ordered by physicians who either never or infrequently used HEALTHeLINK.
  • About 50 percent of the patients who had a duplicative scan had consented to have their information accessed through HEALTHeLINK by their treating providers.
  • More than 95 percent of the potentially unnecessary CT scans were done in a hospital setting.

Porreca said the study reaffirms the HIE's ability to improve care and cut unnecessary costs.

"We believe this study shows that we are on the right track and renews our resolve to ensure doctors can efficiently and in a user-friendly way use the information that is available to them in order to better treat their patients," he said.

With federal funding drying up to support HIEs, Black Book recently sounded the alarm that 83 percent of the nation's public HIEs are stalling. The report found payers snubbing the bureaucracy, fees and complex architecture of government-sponsored HIEs and instead investing in private efforts.

Meanwhile, Hackensack University Medical Center CIO Shafiq Rab says care coordination takes more than EHRs and HIEs. Accountable care organizations also need software to "fill in the gaps" between other systems and services to provide active care coordination management.

To learn more:
- find the study (.pdf)
- here's the announcement

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