Carolina eHealth Alliance Saves More than $1 Million

September 20, 2014

An electronic exchange that allows emergency room doctors at different hospitals in the tri-county region to share patient information saved more than $1 million in unnecessary admissions and redundant procedures over 12 months, a 2013 study shows. The Carolina eHealth Alliance, first launched with grant money by MUSC and Roper St. Francis Healthcare two years ago, now includes all four Lowcountry hospital systems.

“We knew intuitively that sharing information between otherwise siloed hospital systems would reduce redundant testing, imaging, CT scans, X-rays, medication prescriptions, admissions,” said Dr. Christine Carr, the alliance’s clinical leader.

For example, an emergency room (ER) doctor at Trident Medical Center may not need to order a lab test for a patient if a similar test had been administered recently at East Cooper Medical Center. The alliance allows doctors to access the results of that test. One lab test may not cost much, but the savings add up.The 12-month study, which ended in February 2014, showed the Carolina eHealth Alliance reduced services and charges across all hospital systems by more than $1 million in a year.

“I think it’s probably more than that as it doesn’t include time savings,” said Dr. Dan Lewis, an emergency room physician and the medical director of Roper Northwoods. “The time savings to providers and patients is huge.”

There are more than 5,000 hospitals in the United States, but only about 120 successful similar health information exchanges, Carr estimated. This study was one of the first to explore the impact of cost and efficiency that these systems produce.

“From a really practical standpoint, hospitals won’t collect as much revenue and I know they’re OK with that. It will allow us to better take care of patients,” Carr said.