The quality and efficiency of care in hospital emergency departments can be significantly improved when physicians use a health information exchange to access other providers’ electronic medical records.
Improved access gives a more complete picture of a patient’s condition, according to findings of a new study that examined the impact of HIE use in EDs. The study focused on lengths of stay, 30-day readmission rates, as well as the number of doctors needed to examine patients.
Over a 19-month period, the study looked at almost 86,000 encounters at four emergency departments that had the ability to access the HealthlinkNY HIE, connecting providers and patients in 13 counties in the Hudson Valley, Catskills and Southern Tier of New York.
What researchers discovered was that access to patient information through the HIE reduced patient length of stay by 7 percent, decreased the odds of readmission by 4.5 percent, and lowered the number of consultations from multiple doctors by 12 percent.
“The results of our study leave no doubt that HIE access improves quality of healthcare and operational efficiency,” said study co-author Emre Demirezen, assistant professor of operations and supply chain management at the State University of New York at Binghamton. “While common sense tells us that access to the patient’s entire medical history would benefit both the patient and the healthcare provider, my co-authors and I have confirmed that it does by conducting one of the first empirical investigations into the benefits of HIE use at the individual patient level.”
“Now providers have the evidence they need to make HIE use a priority for their organizations,” adds Christina Galanis, president and CEO of HealthLinkNY. “The study proves that New York State’s visionary investment in HIEs is really paying off.”
Galanis points out that New York is the first large state in the nation to build a public network of regional HIEs that are linked together via the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY), enabling providers across the state to exchange patient data. HealthlinkNY is a Qualified Entity funded by the New York State Department of Health.
“We were one of the first HIEs in New York to build our HIE based on a data warehouse,” she says, adding that HealthLinkNY serves as the region’s access point to SHIN-NY. “When providers want to query us, they can also query all the other HIEs in the state at the same time. That’s the new function that came out last year, called statewide Patient Record Lookup.”
Galanis acknowledges that at the time the study was conducted—covering more than 46,000 patient visits from July 1, 2012, to Jan. 31, 2014—the predecessor to HealthLinkNY had a total of five hospitals and was a small regional HIE. However, in late 2014, a merger between Southern Tier HealthLink in Binghamton and Taconic Health Information Network and Community in Fishkill, N.Y., formed HealthLinkNY, which serves 43 hospitals.
“Because we have so much data now, we can really follow patients through the years,” says Galanis, who notes that the researchers are interested in doing additional studies on the impact of HIE on patient- and provider-level outcomes. “What this study shows is that providers not only had access to patient data, but they actually acted on it.”
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