Data sharing saves money and improves quality of care, says report

According to a report by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) that was published by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, a new data sharing initiative in Tennessee has reduced costs and improved the quality of care at several emergency departments (EDs) throughout Memphis.

Researchers from VUMC analyzed patient health records within a clinical informatics network used by 12 EDs across Memphis over a 13-month period. Clinical objectives and patient care outcomes were analyzed and compared to departments not using a medical informatics network or Health Information Exchange during that same time frame.

The report indicated that due to the use of clinical informatics technology, overall admissions to hospitals were reduced, many unnecessary radiology tests were eliminated and operational costs were reduced by approximately $2 million.

The project included every major ED across the city, and utilized healthcare IT infrastructure made possible through a collaborative HIE initiative. Outcomes monitored by the VUMC research team included the number of admissions for observation, head and body CT scan procedures, general laboratory tests, ankle and chest radiographs and echocardiograms.

“This is the first study to show that, on a city-wide basis, investments in technology can save medical costs by improving care,” Mark Frisse, MD, professor of biomedical informatics, told Healthcare IT News. “We took the ‘Tennessee simple’ approach and built a low-cost system that said, ‘Folks, if you do it simply and build it up, doing the right thing can save you money.’”

In addition to the widespread sharing of patient medical data, security and data privacy were key concerns for the project management team. Frisse said that due to medical informatics functionality that allows record logs of which physicians have accessed specific data types and when, transparency and accountability standards were more easily maintained.

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