The Significant Cost Savings Resulting from Electronic Exchange of Health Information
A network of EDs in the USA achieved significant cost savings resulting from the electronic exchange of health information. The results are encouraging as Australia works toward an HIE framework as part of the national eHealth program led by NEHTA.
New research indicates the enormous potential savings when health information is shared between care providers and care settings. In one of the first studies involving a city-wide health information exchange (HIE) , savings of nearly US$2 million were achieved during the 13-month study that included all major emergency departments in Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
Researchers from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee studied the direct financial impact of access to HIE* data by emergency department physicians, and the affect on hospital admissions and diagnostic testing.
Use of the HIE data was greatest for repeat emergency department visits. The authors observed that the HIE data was especially useful for management of patients with non-urgent chronic medical conditions.
During the 2-year study period, HIE data was accessed in 20,285 emergency department visits (6.8%).
Direct web access to HIE data during emergency department visits in the study period resulted in 191 fewer admissions. The HIE data also resulted in 800 more chest radiographs and 74 additional head CT studies. When mixed and direct web access to HIE data are combined, the total cost savings total US$1.9 million.
Even though the HIE data was accessed in only 6.8% visits and the available EHR data was variable across the region - significant savings were achieved. What kind of savings could be achieved when data access is extended beyond the emergency department and across care settings?
As Australia works towards an HIE framework, it is encouraging to see that tangible and substantial benefits are achievable. CSC is committed to and participating in the Australian national eHealth program to improve access to clinical information across care settings. The basis for this work is the CSC Health Information Exchange solution. The solution has already been used to prepare practiX, CSC’s practice management software, for participation in the NEHTA GP Desktop Panel project.
For Australia to replicate the cost savings achieved in Memphis, the proposed Local Hospital Networks (LHNs) and Medicare Locals must be connected via health information exchanges that enable information sharing and coordination across care settings.
Titled The Financial Impact of Health Information Exchange on Emergency Department Care, the paper was published in the November issue of the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association.
*HIE - The electronic movement of health-related information among organisations according to nationally recognised standards (HIT Terms, ONCHIT, 2008)