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Study: When Hospitals Share Patient Records, Emergency Patients Benefit

Research shows value of health information exchanges (January 24)

As hospitals and doctors’ offices across the country race to join online systems that let them share medical information securely, a new study suggests that these systems may already be helping cut unnecessary care.

Fewer emergency patients received repeated medical scans when they went to a hospital that takes part in a health information exchange (HIE), according to new findings by University of Michigan researchers published online in Medical Care.

Although the study focused on scans done on patients who went to two different emergency departments in a 30-day period, the authors say the findings serve as a good test case for the effectiveness of HIEs. The study is one of the first to show with hard data that HIEs may deliver the increased efficiency they promise.

The new findings indicate that the use of repeat computed tomography (CT) scans, chest X-rays, and ultrasound scans was significantly lower when patients had both their emergency visits at two unaffiliated hospitals that took part in an HIE. The data came from two large states that were among the early adopters of HIEs: California and Florida.

Patients were 59% less likely to have a redundant CT scan, 44% less likely to get a duplicate ultrasound, and 67% less likely to have a repeated chest X-ray when both their emergency visits were at hospitals that shared information across an HIE.

Source: University of Michigan Health System; January 24, 2014.

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