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Another Voice

Clinical data sharing is saving our health system money

By Daniel E. Porreca

The New York eHealth Collaborative recently announced that the Statewide Health Information Network for New York, which comprises health information exchanges, or HIE, across the state, if fully leveraged, would reduce unnecessary spending on health care by one billion dollars annually.

HEALTHeLINK, the HIE for Western New York, has one of the highest utilization rates among providers in this network and is significantly contributing to these cost savings.

In fact, our founding organizations – the local hospital systems and health plans – hired IBM in 2005 to conduct a feasibility study to determine to what extent an HIE could lead to better care and cost savings to our health system. This study revealed that deployment of a communitywide HIE here would yield potential realizable benefits of approximately $100 million annually.

The results of that study were the impetus to these organizations providing the seed funding to start HEALTHeLINK. The investment continues today.

The methodology used to determine the cost savings in the collaborative’s analysis was in three categories: duplicate testing, avoidable hospitalizations and readmissions and avoidable emergency room visits.

Through the years, HEALTHeLINK has conducted its own studies in these focus areas, providing evidence that there are significant benefits from utilization of our services.

For instance, over an 18-month period in 2011-12, HEALTHeLINK conducted a study on unnecessary CT scans, which determined that the lost opportunity to utilize HEALTHeLINK before ordering a CT scan could have resulted in savings to the health system. This is not only a cost issue, but also affects patient safety. CT scans involve high levels of radiation exposure.

In 2015, HEALTHeLINK shadowed physicians within three hospital emergency departments for several weeks in which 1,450 patients were seen. According to study results, querying HEALTHeLINK in the ED setting resulted in up to a 52% reduction in ordering of laboratory tests and 47% reduction in radiology exams. There are significant savings in reducing these types of tests.

Finally, the Brookings Institution recently published its analysis of a 2018 study we conducted in three physician practices to examine the impact of HEALTHeLINK utilization. When fully utilizing our services, the study concluded the rate of unplanned hospital readmissions were reduced 10.2% and the rate of emergency department visits was reduced 13.3%.

Our studies demonstrate that when HEALTHeLINK is fully utilized by providers it results in greater efficiency in the health care setting and better care for patients.

Daniel E. Porreca is HEALTHeLINK’s executive director.

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