HIE Study Finds Major Savings in Reducing Duplicative Imaging in ERs

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A study on how access to a health information exchange (HIE) in South Carolina impacted emergency department care costs found that nearly half of the more than $1 million in savings documented was due to a reduction in the need for ordering imaging tests.

The study, was presented at annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians in Seattle, and examined a 12-month period, starting February 2012, during which there were 325,740 patient encounters and 7,525 log-ons to the HIE by 231 eligible clinicians at 11 emergency departments in South Carolina.

Within this sample, the researchers found that having access to an HIE for emergency patients resulted in small savings from avoiding laboratory/microbiology services and unnecessary consultations. But the big savings were in reducing the need for radiology services and avoiding hospital admissions.

The total of savings for patients in the sample was $1,035,654, based on Medicare-allowable charges, and of this amount, $476,840 in savings were due to avoiding radiology services for 298 patients.

"As emergency physicians, we are dedicated to improving care for our patients and also to reducing health care costs,” said study author Dr. Steven Saef, also of the Medical University of South Carolina, in the press release. “This study shows we can do both. Furthermore, when one considers that we are only scratching the surface of what this new resource can do, the implications are staggering."