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HIE Cuts Back On Excess Imaging, But Savings Aren’t Huge

Posted on January 21, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

For years now, we’ve been told that HIEs would save money and reduce redundant testing by hospitals and doctors.  Until recently, such has mostly been the stuff of anecdote rather than hard results.  But a new study comparing hospitals on an HIE with those that were not seems to offer some of the hard evidence we’ve been waiting for (though the cost savings it finds aren’t spectacular overall).

According to a piece in Healthcare IT News, a new study has come out which demonstrates a link between HIE participation and the level of imaging performed in hospital emergency departments.

The study, which was done by Mathematica Policy and the University of Michigan, found that when hospitals were joined in an HIE, the number of redundant CT scans, x-rays and ultrasounds fell meaningfully, generating savings in the millions of dollars.

To conduct the study, Mathematica and the U of Michigan compared the level of repeat CT scans, chest x-rays and ultrasounds for two groups.  One group consisted of 37 EDs connected to an HIE; the other group was 410 EDs not connected to an HIE.  Researchers collected data on the two groups, which were based in California and Florida, between 2007 and 2010, using the state emergency database and HIMSS Analytics listing of hospital HIE participation.

The researchers found that hospital EDs participating in an HIE reduced imaging across all the modalities compared with hospitals not participating in an HIE.  For example, EDs using an HIE worth 13 percent less likely to repeat chest x-rays, and 9 percent less likely to repeat ultrasounds.

Ultimately, the study concluded that if all of the hospital EDs in California in Florida were participating in HIEs, the two states could save about $3 million annually by avoiding repeat imaging.  This is just fine, but this translates to $3 million in lost revenue for those hospitals. Once you split up $3 million across that many hospitals, you don’t end up with an impressive amount per hospital, but it’s still a cut to revenues. A cut in revenue isn’t a strong motivator to implement an HIE even if it does help to lower healthcare costs.

This is why it’s a real challenge to get many hospitals on an HIE. When you throw in the technical issues involved in HIE membership, it could be quite some time before the majority of hospitals jump on board without more external incentives.

A Private HIE is a Vendor Neutral Archive Applied to EHR

Posted on June 17, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been really fascinated by the work many hospital systems are doing to create a private HIE in their organization. As I wrote, I think that private HIE could lead to a nationwide HIE. It’s still a bit of a long shot, but I think it has more promise than the other HIE initiatives I’ve seen in action.

Along with my interest in private HIEs, I’ve also been fascinated by the switch to Vendor Neutral Archives (VNA) in the radiology space. In a VNA, you can store any medical image in the archive and it doesn’t matter what device you use to capture or view the image. Think about the flexibility that this provides. You’re no longer locked into a certain piece of imaging equipment or to a certain viewing application. Instead, you can switch as needed.

As I consider these two areas, it seems that a private HIE is the first step to having a vendor neutral archive. In fact, I’m not sure why more people haven’t applied the principles of vendor neutral archives to the EHR world. I imagine the challenge is in the complexity of the data. Sure, DICOM isn’t a simple piece of data either, but at least there are some DICOM standards that most medical imaging companies follow. The same can’t be said in the EHR world.

The problem now is that the term HIE has so much failure associated with it. I imagine that’s why we moved from RHIO to HIE as well. However, I think that the change from creating an HIE to a vendor neutral archive for EHR data would be a dramatic shift in thinking. This could be an important decision for a large hospital system. Instead of just trying to share data from EHR to EHR, what if they created a vendor neutral archive of all their EHR data such that your future EHR was built around that VNA instead of around a specific piece of software. I’m not sure there are many hospital CIOs brave enough to look this far out.

What do you think of the VNA concept applied to EHR? Is a private HIE the start of a VNA for EHR?