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More patient information means less X-rays, study shows


Doctors are less likely to order unneeded repeat tests when they have patient information at their fingertips. A study in the American Journal of Managed Care shows use of an electronic health information exchange reduces repeat medical imaging.

X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and other medical imaging test are useful in patient diagnosis, but doctors say they can be overused.

David Cywinski is a doctor at Finger Lakes Bone and Joint Center. He explains it can be risky to get too many tests done.

"Every time we make a decision to do these tests we have to realize that these tests don't come without dangers, particularly when there's radiation involved," Cywinski says. "So, if we can minimize the number of tests we do, it's best for the patient. So, it's really done on an individual basis."

A study done at Weill Cornell Medical College found that when health care providers have access to patient information on an electronic health information exchange (HIE) they are 25 percent less likely to repeat tests within 90 days.

Assistant professor Joshua Vest was the lead author on the study that reviewed data of adult patients on the Rochester Regional Health Information Organization.

"As a nation we are using imaging procedures more and more. Sometimes that imaging is really needed. However, other times providers can't get image results or reports from other locations, or they don't even know about them. So, frequently those tests are repeated," Vest says.

HIE’s allow electronic medical files to follow patients from provider to provider within the system.

Cywinski says this saves money.

"Whether it's a cost to the patient or a cost to the health system -- it's a cost, period. If we can minimize repeat studies then it benefits everybody: patients (first and foremost), physicians, and then the system as a paying entity."

According to Vest, planned future studies will look into how much money is saved in health systems that use HIEs.