Have you ever gone to a specialist after your doctor has ordered an imaging study, only to have them say, “I need to have this repeated at my facility because I don’t have access to the images”? I have! Unless you’re an educated healthcare consumer who knows what is possible, you would likely repeat the study, perhaps at significant cost to you.
The Arizona Daily Star®, my hometown newspaper, recently published an article about the installation of electronic medical records, or EMRs, at two local hospitals[i]. While the headline about cost overruns was designed to catch the reader’s eye, the writer went on to talk about the value of IT and of being connected. The article gave an example of two patients who received faster treatment in the ED and avoided duplicate CT scans because doctors had access to images that were performed elsewhere. The example is a timely illustration of the power of connecting hospitals and care teams.
By the numbers
A recent study[ii] from HEALTHeLINK, the Western New York Clinical Information Exchange, found that using a health information exchange (HIE) could save providers up to $1.3 million by reducing duplicate CT exams. Analysis of imaging claims data found that more than 70 percent of providers who ordered duplicate scans were not using HIEs. The study went on to say that sharing data may have the most impact on outpatients and those treated in the Emergency Room. As in my personal experience, if my specialist had access to the data from the hospital where my studies were done, he might not have requested a repeat.
Access for everyone
Right about now you might be asking how this relates to universal viewers. Even though not everyone is connected via an HIE, universal viewers can help providers get connected.
Imaging providers in hospitals and outpatient imaging centers now have access to universal viewer technology. These viewers, when installed at the imaging facility, allow physicians anywhere to gain access to their patient’s data directly or via information that appears in their EMR. Universal viewers use web-enabled technology and industry standards that support connectivity. Even though the patient’s data exists in the imaging provider’s system, it is available to anyone, anywhere with an internet connection and valid login credentials. These are highly secure systems that help to protect patient privacy while making information available to their caregivers.
Many of us are now covered by high deductible health plans where we personally bear a larger portion of the cost of our healthcare out of our pockets. We, as consumers, should be aware of the technology that is available to our healthcare providers. When they want to order that repeat scan, don’t be afraid to ask “why aren’t you connected?”
[i]Tucson area’s largest health network racks up nearly $30 million in losses; Emily Bregel, Stephanie Innes, June 10, 2014.
[ii] New York study shows big savings from use of HIE; Kevin McCarthy; February 2014