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Study: HIEs Could Save Medicare $63M By Reducing Redundant Medical Tests

May 31, 2017
by Heather Landi
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New research indicates that use of health information exchanges (HIEs) can reduce redundant and unnecessary medical procedures by giving physicians instant access to patients' current medical histories.

Brookings scholar Niam Yaraghi, along with coauthors from the State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo and the University of Connecticut, wrote the paper, “Do Health Information Exchanges Deter Repetition of Medical Services?” based on analysis of the adoption of HIEs in Western New York to determine the effect on lowering the repetition of medical procedures, which could also lower costs.

Repetition of medical services by providers is one of the major sources of healthcare costs. According to a Brookings summary of the research, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of procedures that did not improve health outcomes at $700 billion per year.

Yaraghi and his coauthors obtained data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on medical services received by Medicare patients, and compared that data to information on the adoption of HIEs from HEALTHeLINK, the regional network for western New York. “The results show that an HIE lowers the repetition of therapeutic procedures, those aimed at improving a patient’s condition, but HIE adoption did not affect diagnostic procedures that determine the extent of a patient’s illness,” the Brookings write-up of the research stated.

The study looked at the ratio of repeated tests to the unique patients that a physician sees. “For example, a physician that performs a specific therapeutic medical procedure 100 times for 73 unique patients repeats the procedure 27 times, an average ratio of repetition of 0.27. Assuming other variables are fixed at their average level, the results show that the average ratio of repetition for that physician will fall to 0.26 after one year of experience in the HIE system,” according to the research summary. This means that the physician would perform that test 98 times for the same 73 patients, avoiding two repetitions.

Further, the study’s authors estimate that had all the physicians in the U.S. been using HIE, Medicare would have saved $63 million annually for each therapeutic procedure performed at physicians’ offices.

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