The Potential for Community-Based Health Information Exchange Systems to Reduce Hospital Readmissions

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August 6, 2014

Joshua R Vest; Lisa M Kern; Michael D Silver; Rainu Kaushal; for the HITEC investigators


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Patient Admission, Patient Readmission, Health Policy, Health information exchange


Background: Hospital readmissions are common, costly, and offer opportunities for utilization reduction. Electronic health information exchange (HIE) systems may help prevent readmissions by improving access to clinical data by ambulatory providers after discharge from the hospital.

Objective: We sought to determine the association between HIE system usage and 30-day same-cause hospital readmissions among patients who consented and participated in an operational community-wide HIE during a 6-month period in 2009–2010.

Methods: We identified a retrospective cohort of hospital readmissions among adult patients in the Rochester, New York area. We analyzed claims files from two health plans that insure more than 60% of the area population. To be included in the dataset, patients needed to be continuously enrolled in the health plan with at least one encounter with a participating provider in the 6 months following consent to be included in the HIE system. Each patient appeared in the dataset only once and each discharge could be followed for at least 30 days.

Results: We found that accessing patient information in the HIE system in the 30 days after discharge was associated with a 57% lower adjusted odds of readmission (OR 0.43; 95% CI 0.27 to 0.70). The estimated annual savings in the sample from averted readmissions associated with HIE usage was $605,000.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that usage of an electronic HIE system in the ambulatory setting within 30 days after hospital discharge may effectively prevent hospital readmissions, thereby supporting the need for ongoing HIE efforts.