Electronic medical records lower infant mortality, study finds

Expanded use of electronic medical records would substantially reduce infant mortality in the U.S., according to a study forthcoming in the Journal of Political Economy.

A 10 percent increase in hospital use of basic would save 16 babies for every 100,000 , the study found. A complete national transition to electronic records would save an estimated 6,400 infants each year in the U.S.

Many have advocated electronic records as a way to improve care and curb costs. For obstetricians, electronic records might make it easier to identify high risk pregnancies and coordinate care. However, until now there had been surprisingly little empirical data to support those assumptions, according to the study's authors, Amalia Miller of the University of Virginia and the RAND Corporation and Catherine Tucker of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

"This paper offers evidence that suggests cautious optimism about the potential value of … [electronic records] in improving neonatal health outcomes and current health policy that is directed towards increasing the spread of these technologies," the researchers write.

In addition to improving care, electronic records would be cost-effective compared to other healthcare interventions, the research found. Miller and Tucker estimate the cost of saving one baby through to be about $531,000. By comparison, a large expansion in Medicaid coverage for children in the 1980s cost about $840,000 per life saved.

The study compared infant death rates at hospitals with and without electronic records in more than 2,500 U.S. counties over 12 years. The extensive data set allowed the researchers to control for other factors that may influence infant mortality, such as a county's socioeconomic status.

Each year 18,000 die in the U.S. within 28 days of birth. That places the U.S. 43rd worldwide in rate—on par with nations like Slovakia and Montenegro and behind most of the European Union. Slow adoption of electronic records compared to other industrial nations is playing a substantial role in the low U.S. ranking, the study suggests.

It also suggests that the $19.2 billion earmarked for electronic records in the 2009 economic stimulus package was money well spent. "These findings provide an empirical basis for government policy intervention to hasten the diffusion of healthcare [information technology]," the researchers conclude.

More information: Amalia R. Miller and Catherine Tucker, "Can Healthcare IT Save Babies?" Journal of Political Economy 119:2.

Related Stories

No more dithering on e-health

date Mar 01, 2010

Canada is lagging behind many countries in the use of electronic health records and it is critical that the country's medical and political leaders set targets for universal adoption, states an editorial in CMAJ.

Recommended for you

The battle for the bedroom

date 3 hours ago

More and more of us are wishing each other goodnight by mobile phone. Unfortunately this means that we are sleeping increasingly badly. Now sleep researchers in Uppsala are creating an app to make us disconnect ...

Healthcare on (un)equal terms?

date 3 hours ago

Healthcare on equal terms is the basis of good public health. As socially exposed groups find it increasingly difficult to enter the healthcare system, our entire society risks becoming weaker, says Professor ...

Patient portals could widen health disparities

date 4 hours ago

Online sites that offer secure access to one's medical record, often referred to as patient portals, are increasingly important for doctor and patient communication and routine access to health care information. But patient ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.