How EHR historical data is helping manage healthcare’s contrast media shortage
For at least the next several months, U.S. hospitals and health systems face acute shortages of iodinated contrast media agents used in medical imaging studies. The scarcity traces back to April, when GE Healthcare, the key source for iohexol, closed its manufacturing facility in Shanghai, China, where stringent COVID policies kept factory workers in lockdown at home.
After ramping up to 25 percent capacity in May, GE Healthcare expected to resume normal production of the agent by the end of June. However, that projection has since been extended until the end of September, according to the American Hospital Association.
Nearly half of U.S. hospitals rely on GE Healthcare for iohexol, with hundreds of thousands of scans using iodinated media conducted each week. The shortage has forced healthcare organizations nationwide to delay non-emergency procedures and ration existing supplies.
Until the shortage resolves, administrators and providers on the frontlines need to be proactive. The American College of Radiology recommends several risk-mitigation strategies.
Managing the supply chain shortage with technology
In addition to supply-specific actions to prioritize shortages among departments that use iodinated contrast, healthcare executives should also consider how their organizations will address day-to-day practice management during the ongoing shortage.
Here are some tips for managing the shortage:
Utilize EHR data to uncover contrast media usage rates
Review electronic medical record data to establish historical contrast media usage rates. This can be an invaluable way of extrapolating data to predict how long current inventories will last.
Communicate with patients
Recognize that reviewing and modifying previously ordered and/or scheduled exams will require an additional workflow burden for radiologists and administrative staff. When scheduling procedures without contrast material, use your most effective communication channels to explain the change to patients and their providers clearly.
Don’t forget accuracy in billing
Whether you use an open or closed billing system, be sure staff are assigned to review pre-authorizations to avoid duplication with the change in orders. Include an explanation of the specific change to the exam and the contrast media shortage that necessitated the update. It’s also important to indicate the urgency that required the patient to undergo the modified exam. Accurately documenting changes in the EHR’s radiology report can avoid billing complications later for the patient and providers
Although the coming months will be challenging, some experts believe the situation may have a silver lining. Future use of iodinated contrast media may decrease if research shows that lower-dose or un-enhanced scanning is as effective as procedures conducted before the shortage.
Frank Irving is a Philadelphia-based content writer and communications consultant specializing in healthcare, technology and sports.