Adoption of health information exchange among disparate provider organizations in Western Colorado resulted in reducing the number of laboratory tests done, but did not significantly cut the amount or costs of radiology tests, a newly published study concludes.

The study, published in the June Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association focused on Mesa County with the major city being Grand Junction. The study used commercial, Medicaid and Medicare claims data from Rocky Mountain Health Plans from the second quarter of 2005 to the fourth quarter of 2010. While adoption of HIE was very limited during that period across much of the nation, Mesa stakeholders formed the Quality Health Network HIE in 2005 and provider participation hit 46 percent by the end of 2010.

But in large measure, having access to patient data from other providers via the HIE did not affect provider behavior when it came to ordering lab and radiology tests. Data in the study--about 1 million ambulatory, 358,000 laboratory and 127,500 radiology claims--came from 306 ambulatory providers in 69 practices for nearly 35,000 patients.

For both primary and specialty physicians, HIE brought a significant downward shift in the quantity of laboratory tests ordered, but no significant shift in cost, study results show. For usual and advanced radiology tests, there was no significant change in quantity or cost between either primary or specialty physicians.

“Overall, this analysis suggests that reductions in the rates of testing in the ambulatory setting are unlikely to result in substantial short-term cost savings,” authors conclude. The study, “Effects of health information exchange adoption on ambulatory testing rates,” is available here at a cost of $30.

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