Electronic health records (EHRs) improve the quality of patient care doctors provide, by streamlining practices, fostering coordinated care among multiple providers, and helping promote proactive preventive health measures, new research shows.
The study, conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers, tracked the practices of 500 Hudson Valley, New York, physicians and found that the 56 percent who used EHRs provided significantly better quality of care than those using paper records. The work evaluated four measures — screening for diabetes (for hemoglobin A1c), breast cancer, chlamydia, and colorectal cancer.
Researchers noted EHRs typically provide reminders about such tests. They added that the 75,000 patients seen by the doctors in the study were enrolled in five different health plans, including two national commercial plans, two regional commercial plans, and one regional Medicaid health maintenance organization.
"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," said Dr. Rainu Kaushal, who helped conduct the study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. "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."
The use of EHRs is on the rise, in part because the federal government has invested $29 billion in incentives promoting their use.
Previous studies have provided conflicting evidence about the impact of EHRs.
"This study starts to grow the evidence that the use of these systems can systematically improve the quality of care," said Kaushal. "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 health care providers."