Health Information Exchange Systems Can Eliminate Unnecessary Testing

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Researchers at UTHSC and Vanderbilt University Medical Center performed a study on how use of health information exchange systems can eliminate unnecessary testing.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and Vanderbilt University Medical Center performed a study on how use of health information exchange systems can eliminate unnecessary testing, especially preventing headache patients from undergoing unnecessary and potentially harmful CT scans to the head. The Journal of General Internal Medicine published a paper on the study in its May 31st 2012 online edition, available at: http://www.springerlink.com/openurl.asp?genre=article&id.1007/s11606-012-2092-7.

The study found that people suffering from headaches who visit emergency rooms for care often undergo unnecessary neuroimaging scans (CT, or computed tomography scans used for medical imaging). The study analyzed data for more than 1,250 adults who visited hospital emergency departments in the Memphis metropolitan area complaining of headaches two or more times between August 1, 2007, and July 31, 2009.

“For patients who make frequent visits to the emergency room due to headaches, these scans expose them to dangerous levels of radiation,” said James E. Bailey, MD, MPH, one of the authors of the study. Dr. Bailey is a professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine in the UTHSC College of Medicine, and an associate professor in the UTHSC Department of Preventive Medicine. “The citizens of this region are fortunate to have one of the best systems for exchanging health information in the country. It allows health care providers to securely access patients’ vital health information when and where it is needed. Our study demonstrated that when physicians and nurses use this system and check for test results from other hospitals or emergency rooms, patients were 62 percent less likely to get another CT scan of the head.”

“We found that when health information is exchanged electronically that patients with headaches were less likely to get duplicate testing and were more likely to get recommended care,” stated Jim Y. Wan, PhD, associate professor in the UTHSC Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine. “Data proves that health information exchange systems, known as HIE systems, work to reduce unnecessary testing and improve care. Translated to a national level, we firmly believe HIE systems will lead to measurable, positive differences in caring for patients,” said Lisa M. Mabry, MD, a research associate in the Division of General Internal Medicine, UTHSC College of Medicine.

The other UTHSC researchers and authors of the paper are Stephen H. Landy, MD, professor in the Department of Neurology, College of Medicine; Rebecca A. Pope, health care economist in the Division of General Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, and Teresa M. Waters, associate professor, Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine. Mark E. Frisse, MD, MBA, Department of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt completed the team.