From the January/February issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By David Bennett and Dr. Brian Frohna
Fragmented patient information continues to be a significant barrier to tackling rising health care costs and improving the quality, safety and efficiency of care.
As data proliferates, a longitudinal view of an individual’s medical record sets the foundation for enhanced care coordination, informed clinical decision-making and improved patient experiences.
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Despite intense efforts and significant investments to implement EHRs, duplicate and incomplete records continue to plague providers. Patient data matching functionalities within EHRs often lack the complexities to unify information from disparate and external systems. The resulting number of duplicate and disjointed records lead to patient safety errors, skewed reporting and analytics, administrative burdens and lost revenue.
To align records for 4.5 million patients across its multiple hospitals, imaging centers and radiology practice locations, and to provide on-demand access to scads of imaging exams, Phoenix-based Southwest Diagnostic Imaging (SDI) – one of the nation's largest radiology specialty corporations – looked to implement an enterprise-wide solution that would consolidate patient data and imaging files into a single record.
Defining the challenge
Integrating patient records with medical imaging is a challenge for many of today's radiology practices. Lack of real-time access to X-rays, MRIs and other imaging files caused by siloed health care data across various systems and settings leads to suboptimal outcomes and avoidable costs of care.
Providing diagnostic imaging services to the entire Phoenix metropolitan area, SDI is comprised of three radiology practices – Valley Radiologists, Scottsdale Medical Imaging and East Valley Diagnostic Imaging. Annually, SDI performs 900,000 outpatient exams and interprets 2.6 million exams across its 35 full-service imaging centers and 12 regional hospitals.
Like many growing health care institutions, SDI struggled to reconcile and exchange patient data and imaging files from multiple systems and locations. For years, radiologists spent much of their day performing addendums because information at the point of care was missing or incomplete. At times, radiologists could not access patient studies from hospitals just 150 yards away.
When radiologists received newly acquired patient imaging studies, previous medical histories, X-rays, laboratory and test results were not readily available, hindering the ability to accurately interpret radiologic examinations.
From a revenue and operational standpoint, duplicate and disconnected records at SDI put a strain on billing, which faced inefficiencies processing claims, collections and payments.
Duplicate patient records frequently occur as a result of complex spellings or multiple name variations, data entry errors and a lack of standardized admissions processes. A typo or absence of a single digit in one’s Social Security number, birth date or address only compounds the potential for creating duplicates. This can lead to diagnosis errors, redundant medical tests, gaps in treatment and billing inaccuracies.