The investments made in health information technology and functionality that improves providers’ ease of access is reaping significant dividends. Quality Health Network (QHN) recently had the opportunity to ask local providers about their experience with single sign-on (SSO) and how it changes their utilization and access to information in QHN’s health information exchange (HIE).

“SSO is the type of thing that you don’t realize you need until you have it. Access to a patient data repository like QHN has its own obvious benefits working in an emergency department,” said Pete Dahlheimer, MD, emergency medicine physician at St. Mary’s Hospital and RMC. “It saves on a GREAT deal of testing and results in overall far better patient care as most patients don’t know their own history in the type of detail available in the QHN comprehensive medical record.”

Study Results on HIE Access in ED are Dramatic

A recent study conducted at three emergency departments in Western New York and published by the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, shows a significant reduction in the duplication of tests when providers and staff accessed patient health information through an HIE. Avoidable duplication of tests is a financial burden on our healthcare system and impacts patients who may be unnecessarily exposed to radiation, and subject them to longer than necessary wait times in the emergency department.

The results indicate that when additional clinical data through the HIE was accessed the number of lab tests ordered in the emergency departments studied was reduced by 52 percent and radiology exams, such as CT scans, by 36 percent. “This study was completely unnecessary. You don’t need such a detailed study to show that access to more patient information will help doctors, said Niam Yaraghi, a Brookings Institution fellow who authored the study. “It is logical, like knowing that a parachute will prevent injury.” 

The study highlights the importance of integrating HIE queries into the routine workflow of providers, ED providers specifically. The study also allows other ED settings to evaluate the benefits of implementing the technology which enable clinicians ease of access to the HIE, to increase HIE query rates, against the potential costs. “Providers are always looking for ways to stay in one system,” said Jonathan Perin, Director of Heart and Vascular at Valley View Hospital. “If hospitals have single sign on from their HIS system, to QHN, they would have access to all the information they need in one place.”

SSO Supports Quality, Comprehensive Care

The study highlights just one component of the value of exchanging information via HIE and how providers’ accessing their patients’ data using health information technology can improve the quality and efficiency of patient care and enhance patient safety. “SSO, was turning point in our community for providers truly seeing the full value of the longitudinal patient record and data repository at the point of care,” noted Dan Sullivan, MD, Family Medicine Physician at Primary Care Partners. “With the convenience and speed of SSO, the repository is queried much more often, that’s the value. I frequently see in ED notes that relevant history from my office notes were considered in their assessment of my patients. To me, this demonstrates the providers’ effort to do quality, comprehensive patient care.” 

This study makes it clear that the investments being made in health information technology is reaping significant dividends, enabling better care to patients and reducing costs to our healthcare system. “Physicians are much less likely to order duplicate tests,” continues Sullivan. “Providers discover unexpected history, medications, prior lab trends and other diagnoses in QHN – all adding to their understanding and a more complete picture of the patient.”