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.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

No more dithering on e-health

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

US judge blocks enforcement of new abortion law

3 minutes ago

A federal judge has temporarily blocked Louisiana from enforcing its restrictive new abortion law. But lawyers and advocates appeared to disagree about whether the judge's order affects doctors at all five abortion clinics ...

New toilets for India's poor, crime-hit village

22 hours ago

More than 100 new toilets were unveiled Sunday in a poverty-stricken and scandal-hit village in northern India, where fearful and vulnerable women have long been forced to defecate in the open.

Can YouTube save your life?

Aug 29, 2014

Only a handful of CPR and basic life support (BLS) videos available on YouTube provide instructions which are consistent with recent health guidelines, according to a new study published in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the jo ...

Doctors frequently experience ethical dilemmas

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For physicians trying to balance various financial and time pressures, ethical dilemmas are common, according to an article published Aug. 7 in Medical Economics.

AMGA: Physician turnover still high in 2013

Aug 29, 2014

(HealthDay)—For the second year running, physician turnover remains at the highest rate since 2005, according to a report published by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA).

User comments