Electronic Medical Records Impact on Quality of Care Questioned by Study
According to the findings of a recent study, hospitals that have switched to electronic health records are not seeing the improvements in quality of medical care that some experts had hoped for.
New research involving physician data on how electronic medical records and clinical decision support affect quality of care produced disappointing results, with no consistent link between the use of electronic records and quality of care. The results were published late last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Stanford Prevention Research Center analyzed physician survey data on more than 255,000 patients using the 2005-2007 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. They used 20 different quality indicators to see whether the use of electronic records and clinical decision support were associated with improved care. Of all the different quality indicators used, the only category that showed marked improvement due to the use of electronic health records was diet counseling in high-risk adults.
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According to the researchers, about 30% of the estimated 1.1 billion hospital visits by U.S. patients involved the use of medical records. They were more likely to be used in the western U.S.
Many medical experts have long hoped that the use of electronic or digital medial records would reduce medical mistakes and prescription errors, helping healthcare providers avoid preventable injuries and reduce their exposure to the risk of medical malpractice lawsuits. It is hoped having the records available electronically would prevent misreading of hand-written data, flag potentially dangerous drug combinations and alert physicians and health care professionals to health conditions that might complicate other procedures.
Researchers said that those benefits are not being seen in the study’s results. “These results raise concerns about the ability of health information technology to fundamentally alter outpatient care quality,” researchers concluded.
A different study published in late December in the American Journal of Managed Care did find overall improvements in serious medical care when hospitals used electronic health records, but found a decrease in quality when the electronic record-keeping systems were new.
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