Introduction: Use clinician perceptions to estimate the impact of a health information exchange (HIE) on emergency department (ED) care at four major hospital systems (HS) within a region. Use survey data provided by ED clinicians to estimate reduction in Medicare-allowable reimbursements (MARs) resulting from use of an HIE.
Methods: We conducted the study during a one-year period beginning in February 2012. Study sites included eleven EDs operated by four major HS in the region of a mid-sized Southeastern city, including one academic ED, five community hospital EDs, four free-standing EDs and 1 ED/Chest Pain Center (CPC) all of which participated in an HIE. The study design was observational, prospective using a voluntary, anonymous, online survey. Eligible participants included attending emergency physicians, residents, and mid-level providers (PA & NP). Survey items asked clinicians whether information obtained from the HIE changed resource use while caring for patients at the study sites and used branching logic to ascertain specific types of services avoided including laboratory/microbiology, radiology, consultations, and hospital admissions. Additional items asked how use of the HIE affected quality of care and length of stay. The survey was automated using a survey construction tool (REDCap Survey Software © 2010 Vanderbilt University). We calculated avoided MARs by multiplying the numbers and types of services reported to have been avoided. Average cost of an admission from the ED was based on direct cost trends for ED admissions within the region.
Results: During the 12-month study period we had 325,740 patient encounters and 7,525 logons to the HIE (utilization rate of 2.3%) by 231 ED clinicians practicing at the study sites. We collected 621 surveys representing 8.25% of logons of which 532 (85.7% of surveys) reported on patients who had information available in the HIE. Within this group the following services and MARs were reported to have been avoided [type of service: number of services; MARs]: Laboratory/Microbiology:187; $2,073, Radiology: 298; $475,840, Consultations: 61; $6,461, Hospital Admissions: 56; $551,282. Grand total of MARs avoided: $1,035,654; average $1,947 per patient who had information available in the HIE (Range: $1,491 - $2,395 between HS). Changes in management other than avoidance of a service were reported by 32.2% of participants. Participants stated that quality of care was improved for 89% of patients with information in the HIE. Eighty-two percent of participants reported that valuable time was saved with a mean time saved of 105 minutes.
Conclusion: Observational data provided by ED clinicians practicing at eleven EDs in a mid-sized Southeastern city showed an average reduction in MARs of $1,947 per patient who had information available in an HIE. The majority of reduced MARs were due to avoided radiology studies and hospital admissions. Over 80% of participants reported that quality of care was improved and valuable time was saved. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(7):–0.]