Healthcare News & Insights

New study weighs in on EHR debate

In what its authors say is one of the first of its kind, a new study shows a link between the quality of care and the use of electronic health record (EHR) systems. 

Doctors using EHRs performed better in a set of quality measures compared to their peers using paper records, according to a study from researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study involved 466 physicians, 44% of whom had adopted EHRs, while the rest were using paper. Using data since 2008, researchers measured how each doctor scored on a set of nine quality measures related to diabetes, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and chlamydia treatment.

Overall, doctors who used EHRs got higher scores than those using paper. And they did especially better for the measures related to disease screening.

Few previous studies had been able to show improvements in care and outcomes connected to EHR use. In fact there has been significant debate recently about the benefits of health IT after two medical school professors wrote a Wall Street Journal article claiming EHRs won’t cut costs or improve care. They cited a research report that examined several EHR studies and concluded that most evidence showed EHRs having a negative or neutral impact.

However, some critics pointed out that the data included in that report was old and didn’t take into account newer systems designed to meet federal meaningful use requirements. One recent study focusing on meaningful use found that providers that had met the requirements for federal EHR incentives improved their scores in measurements related to heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care infection prevention.

Also, what sets this new study apart from most others is that it focused on physicians in a typical, community-based setting and used an off-the-shelf EHR system that hadn’t been specially tailored for the study.

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