More Than Half of Physicians’ Use of EHRs Improves Patient Care: Study

Commercially available electronic health records (EHRs) improve patient care in community-based settings with multiple payors in four areas, including diabetes testing and breast cancer screening, according to a new study from Weill Cornell Medical College researchers.

The study, conducted with the Health Information Technology Evaluation Collaborative (HITEC), was designed to evaluate and assess the impact of New York’s HIT strategy, where a concerted effort to implement the technology was implemented. In 2008, researchers collected data about the quality of patient care across nine measures from nearly 500 physicians and 75,000 patients in ambulatory practices in the Hudson Valley region of New York. They gathered data from five different health plans, including two national commercial plans, two regional commercial plans and one regional Medicaid health maintenance organization (HMO).

The team found that the 56 percent of physicians who used commercially available EHRs provided significantly better quality of care than physicians using paper records for four measures that EHRs typically provide reminders for. They are:

  • Hemoglobin A1c testing in diabetes,
  • Breast cancer screening,
  • Chlamydia screening, and
  • Colorectal cancer screening.

In addition, the combined score across all nine measures indicated that EHRs led to better patient care than paper records.

EHR’s effectiveness has been debated over the years, triggered in part by the $29 million in incentives the federal government has invested to promote the meaningful use of these systems. It has remained unclear whether these systems effectively track and improve patient outcomes. Researchers say this is one of the first studies to find a positive association between the use of EHRs and quality of care in a typical community-based setting, using an off-the-shelf EHR that has not been extensively tailored and refined.

To follow up on this report, the researchers plan to study the effects of EHRs on patient care over time and across different locations in New York, as well as to examine the effects EHRs have on the cost of patient care and to work on improving ways to measure the quality of patient care.

Source: Weill Cornell Medical College, October 9, 2012
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