Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Meaningful use of EHRs improves quality of care

Meeting the requirements for meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) is necessary to receive federal incentive payments. But, more importantly, it also helps providers improve their care, according to a recent study. 

While many providers have adopted EHR systems, a lot of them are still struggling to achieve meaningful use. Though 71% of physicians in a recent study were using EHRs, only 30% had a system configured to meet the 12 meaningful use objectives looked at by researchers.

And compared to systems that don’t meet meaningful use requirements, systems that do meet the requirements offer significant improvements in the quality of care and outcomes, according to a recent study, “Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Record Systems and Process Quality of Care,” published in the journal Health Services Research.

Researchers found that hospitals using primitive EHR systems that upgraded to software that met Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements saw a significant improvement in healthcare delivery.

For the study, researchers looked at data from nearly 4,000 hospitals over a five-year period. They divided the hospitals’ EHR capabilities into five different classifications, ranging from those primitive systems (Level 0) to full-featured systems that included computerized physician order entry, clinical decision support and other functions (Level 4).

Then, the hospitals were given scores on a 100-point scale based on heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care infection prevention. The study found that as hospitals moved up in terms of their EHR functionality, their scores improved.

Hospitals that moved from Level 0 to Level 3 increased their scores from 1.16 to 1.61 percentage points, which was the greatest improvement out of any group.

The findings are reassuring, researchers said. Those results show that achieving meaningful use of EHRs will not only result in providers receiving incentive payments, but will also improve the quality of care — which is one of the most important goals of the EHR incentive program.

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