Electronic health records shown to improve the quality of patient care

October 9, 2012

A new study by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, provides compelling evidence that electronic health records (EHRs) enhance the quality of patient care in a community-based setting with multiple payers, which is representative of how medicine is generally practiced across the United States.

The use of EHRs is on the rise, in part because the federal government has invested up to $29 billion in incentives promoting the meaningful use of these systems, with the aim of tracking and improving patient outcomes. Previous studies have provided conflicting evidence about the impact of EHRs, and until now it had been not clear whether they improved the quality of patient care, particularly in typical communities that use commercially available systems.

"The previous studies on the effects of in the outpatient setting have been mixed," says the study's lead investigator, Dr. Lisa M. Kern, associate professor of public and medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. "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 record that has not been extensively tailored and refined. This increases the generalizability of these findings."

"This study starts to grow the evidence that the use of these systems can systematically improve the quality of care, although their maximum value likely lies in their ability to support new models," says the study's senior investigator Dr. Rainu Kaushal, director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy and the Frances and John L. Loeb Professor of at Weill Cornell Medical College. "The findings of this study lend support to the very significant investments in health information technology that are being made by the federal government, states, and ."

This study was conducted with the Health Information Technology Evaluation Collaborative (HITEC)—a multi-institutional effort directed by Drs. Kaushal and Kern and funded by New York State, in order to evaluate and assess the impact of New York's strategy. In 2008, the 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, where there has been a concerted effort to implement EHRs. They gathered data from five different health plans, including two national commercial plans, two regional commercial plans and one regional Medicaid health maintenance organization.

"This study reflects data from five different health plans, which is another strength of the study and which is critical for understanding the experiences of patients in the community," says Dr. Kern. "If you only have one health plan, then you will not be seeing the whole picture."

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, including hemoglobin A1c testing in diabetes, breast cancer screening, chlamydia screening and colorectal cancer screening. EHRs typically provide reminders about these clinical tests. Moreover, the combined score across all nine measures indicated that EHRs led to better patient care than paper records.

"EHRs may improve the quality of care by making information more accessible to physicians, providing medical decision-making support in real time and allowing patients and providers to communicate regularly and securely," says Dr. Kaushal. "However, the real value of these systems is their ability to organize data and to allow transformative models of health care delivery, such as the patient-centered medical home, to be layered on top."

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

Explore further: California physicians unprepared for electronic health record regulations: report

Related Stories

California physicians unprepared for electronic health record regulations: report

June 15, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Electronic health records (EHRs) are used widely by California physicians, but many of their systems are not designed to meet new federal standards aimed at improving the quality of health care, according ...

Better together - The RN and the EHR

January 17, 2012
With the prodding of new federal legislation, electronic health records (EHRs) are rapidly becoming part of the daily practice of hospital nurses – the frontline providers of care. In the first large study of its kind, ...

Survey: Clinicians believe EHRs will have positive impact on health care

October 3, 2012
Survey results released today reveal that an overwhelming majority of clinicians believe that the electronic exchange of health information will have a positive impact on improving the quality of patient care, coordinating ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 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.