Min Chen, Assistant Professor, Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics, Florida International University
Min Chen, Florida International University

A new study further confirms what the field has suspected — efficiently exchanging health information between nursing facilities and other providers helps to reduce costly readmissions back to the hospital.

Boosting information exchange between disparate providers has been a driving force for policymakers in recent years. Wanting to better understand how these efforts have impacted quality of care, researchers with Florida International University examined data from 160 of the state’s hospitals, trying to determine whether HIE helped to drop readmissions for heart attack patients, in particular.

Their results, published in February’s Health Affairs, note that hospitals’ decrease in the probability of unplanned 30-day readmissions was 1.3 percentage points greater than hospitals without such exchange. About 8.3% of the study population was sent to a skilled nursing facility after the initial hospitalization for a heart attack, and 13.2% went to a home health agency.

“A lot of the times when patients were discharged, they did not go back home; they went to a nursing home,” said Min Chen, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems and Business analytics at FIU. “So, it’s important that hospitals exchange information not only with other hospitals, but also with skilled nursing facilities and other providers. That allows them to integrate care better to help to reduce overall admissions.”

Investigators reached their conclusions by analyzing 2011 to 2014 discharge data from the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey, representing more than 83,000 patients. About 60% of the hospitals were involved in HIE. Authors analyzed the exchange of four different record types — radiology reports, lab results, medication history and clinical care records. Chen said it’s clear that HIE can help skilled providers improve outcomes, and hopes recent legislative efforts, such as an in-the-works rule that would prohibit hospitals from blocking information requests, will help further improve collaboration.