HIE shows cost savings in emergencies

ACEP research finds more than $1 million in unnecessary care avoided
By Mike Miliard
10:13 AM

Beyond improving the quality of emergency care, giving physicians access to data from a health information exchange saved nearly $2,000 per patient during a study unveiled Monday by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The research tracked patient care over a 12-month period, starting February 2012, during which there were 325,740 patient encounters and 7,525 log-ons to the HIE by 231 eligible clinicians at 11 emergency departments in South Carolina, according to ACEP. The study was based on a sample of 532 patients from this population who had information available in the HIE and for whom the clinicians caring for the patients completed a survey.

"Nearly 90 percent of participants [89 percent] said that quality of patient care was improved, and 82 percent of participants said that valuable time was saved, reporting a mean time savings of 105 minutes per patient," according to study author Christine Carr, MD, of the Medical University of South Carolina, in a news release.

Moreover, the report found that access to an HIE for emergency patients resulted in savings thanks to an avoidance of services that might otherwise have been given:

  • Laboratory/microbiology: $2,073 (187 patients)
  • Radiology: $476,840 (298 patients)
  • Consultations: $6,461(61 patients)
  • Hospital admissions: $551,282 (56 patients)

Based on Medicare-allowable charges, or $1,947 per patient, the total of savings for patients in the sample was $1,035,654, according to ACEP.

"Our research suggests that a health information exchange can improve quality and save money in an emergency care setting," said study author Steven Saef, MD, assistant professor of medicine in the division of emergency medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.

"As emergency physicians, we are dedicated to improving care for our patients and also to reducing health care costs," said Saef, in a press statement. "This study shows we can do both. Furthermore, when one considers that we are only scratching the surface of what this new resource can do, the implications are staggering."

[See also: Hospital execs slow to measure technology ROI]

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