In Study, Memphis HIE Lowered ER Imaging Utilization but Not Costs

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As the pursuit of reducing the unnecessary utilization of imaging equipment continues, new research questions the idea that greater access to information could necessarily lead to less imaging—and therefore, lowered costs to the system.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and conducted with data from Memphis, TN-area patients revealed that Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) helped improve “evidence-based guideline adherence in the emergency evaluation of headache” as well as decreasing utilization of imaging equipment. Yet they did not lower costs.

The HIE connected emergency personnel at 15 adult hospitals and two regional clinic systems with the records of patients seen at all facilities. In accessing nearly 22 percent of all ER visits related to complaints of headache, researchers found that nearly 70 percent of those still received neuroimaging.

Whether that indicates that the imaging studies performed were associated with best practices or merely necessary, researchers believe their findings stand as a testament to the need to tie federal dollars to improved outcomes foremost.