Western N.Y. HIE says duplicate scans ordered by docs who rarely search priors

HEALTHeLINK, a health information exchange (HIE) serving western New York, announced that 10 percent of recently ordered CT scans could be unnecessary duplicate scans, according to the results of an 18-month study.

Over the course of the study period, more than 2,700 potentially unnecessary scans were identified, with 90 percent being ordered by physicians who never or infrequently use the HIE.

In a white paper discussing the results, HEALTHeLINK said the findings demonstrate “a lost opportunity as well as the potential and value of health information technology and health information exchange for providing patients with the most effective and efficient course of treatment.”

The study looked at cases where multiple CT scans were ordered for the same body part, for the same patient, over a six month timeframe, with a focus on scans of the head and neck, chest and abdomen.

Results showed that 95 percent of the duplicate scans came from hospitals, 44 percent of which came from the emergency department.

Just over 1 percent of the duplicate scan orders came from physicians who frequently used the HIE.

In addition to looking at physicians’ use of the HIE, the study also tracked whether patients had consented to have their data accessed to determine whether this was limiting access to prior scans. HEALTHeLINK found that approximately half of the patients who had a duplicative CT had already consented to having data accessed, and only 2.3 percent had denied consent.

The cost of the duplicative scans was pegged at more than $1.3 million, assuming the average cost of a CT scan is $500.

“If providers are enabled to use the HIE and patients provide physicians access through the consent process then duplicate tests, which are often unnecessary, are far less likely to be done,” read the HEALTHeLINK paper. “In the long run, this saves time, money and most importantly in the case of CT scans, eliminates unnecessary and potentially harmful radiation exposure to the patient.”