Researchers: Access to Tech, not Test Results, Drives Studies

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Stop the presses, meaningful use advocates: a new study released in this month’s issue of Health Affairs challenges the notion that electronic access to a patient’s medical history necessarily results in fewer imaging studies being ordered. According to the abstract, “as currently implemented, electronic access does not decrease test ordering in the office setting and may even increase it, possibly because of system features that are enticements to ordering.” Analysis of nearly 29,000 patient visits to almost 1,200 physician offices in 2008 demonstrated that practitioners with access to patients’ imaging studies were “associated with a 40–70 percent greater likelihood of an imaging test being ordered.” “Policy-based incentives for health care providers to adopt health information technology are predicated on the assumption that, among other things, electronic access to patient test results and medical records will reduce diagnostic testing and save money,” reads the abstract. “We conclude that use of these health information technologies, whatever their other benefits, remains unproven as an effective cost-control strategy with respect to reducing the ordering of unnecessary tests.”