Health information exchange (HIE) is advocated as an approach to reduce unnecessary testing and improve quality of emergency department (ED) care, but little evidence supports its use. Headache is a specific condition for which HIE has theoretical benefits.
To determine whether health information exchange (HIE) reduces potentially unnecessary neuroimaging, increases adherence with evidence-based guidelines, and decreases costs in the emergency department (ED) evaluation of headache.
Longitudinal data analysis
All repeat patient-visits (N = 2,102) by all 1,252 adults presenting with headache to a Memphis metropolitan area ED two or more times between August 1, 2007 and July 31, 2009.
Use of a regional HIE connecting the 15 major adult hospitals and two regional clinic systems by authorized ED personnel to access the patient’s record during the time period in which the patient was being seen in the ED.
Diagnostic neuroimaging (CT, CT angiography, MRI or MRI angiography), evidence-based guideline adherence, and total patient-visit estimated cost.
HIE data were accessed for 21.8 % of ED patient-visits for headache. 69.8 % received neuroimaging. HIE was associated with decreased odds of diagnostic neuroimaging (odds ratio [OR] 0.38, confidence interval [CI] 0.29–0.50) and increased adherence with evidence-based guidelines (OR 1.33, CI 1.02–1.73). Administrative/nursing staff HIE use (OR 0.24, CI 0.17–0.34) was also associated with decreased neuroimaging after adjustment for confounding factors. Overall HIE use was not associated with significant changes in costs.
HIE is associated with decreased diagnostic imaging and increased evidence-based guideline adherence in the emergency evaluation of headache, but was not associated with improvements in overall costs. Controlled trials are needed to test whether specific HIE enhancements to increase HIE use can further reduce potentially unnecessary diagnostic imaging and improve adherence with guidelines while decreasing costs of care.