Background — Electronic health information systems, such as picture archiving communication systems (PACS), are commonly believed to reduce the need for duplicate testing. However, empirical data to support this belief are not available.
Methods — Before-after study using administrative claims data from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan to determine whether the introduction of PACS at 10 hospitals in the Thames Valley region of southwestern Ontario, Canada between June 2004 and December 2005 reduced the frequency of duplicate imaging examinations. The imaging modalities studied were: chest and abdominal X-ray; computed tomography of the abdomen/pelvis, head, and chest. The frequency of duplicate testing was examined at 3 different time frames: 7 days, 30 days, and 60 days after a given index test.
Results — Overall frequencies of duplicate imaging were: 2.7% within 7 days of an index imaging test, 6.7% within 30 days, and 9.8% within 60 days. Comparing the 12 months before and 12 months after PACS, absolute reductions in the frequency of duplicate X-rays using 7-day, 30-day, and 60-day time frames were: 0.2% (P = 0.01), 0.6% (P < 0.001), and 0.9% (P < 0.001), respectively. In contrast, there were absolute increases in the frequency of duplicate CT scans after PACS of 0.0% (P = 0.92), 0.5% (P = 0.01), and 0.5% (P = 0.01), respectively.
Conclusion — The frequency of duplicate imaging is relatively low and we did not find large reductions in duplicate imaging after the introduction of PACS. Independent evaluation of electronic medical systems should be conducted to confirm widely held beliefs of their potential benefits.
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Health care utilization