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Electronic Records Do Aid Patient Care, Study Finds

Outpatients benefit from data organization, improved communication, researchers say

FRIDAY, Oct. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Electronic health records improve the quality of patient care, according to a new study.

Weill Cornell Medical College researchers looked at 2008 data from 75,000 patients treated by nearly 500 doctors in the Hudson Valley region of New York. The data, which came from five different health plans, was used to assess patient care on nine measures.

The study found that 56 percent of doctors who used commercially available electronic health records provided significantly better quality of care on four measures than those who used paper records. Those four measures were hemoglobin A1c testing in people with diabetes, breast cancer screening, chlamydia screening and colon cancer screening.

In addition, the combined score across all measures indicated that the use of electronic health records resulted in better patient care than paper records, according to the study, which was recently published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Electronic health records "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," study senior investigator Dr. Rainu Kaushal, director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy and a professor of medical informatics, said in a Weill Cornell news release.

"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," Kaushal added. The 'medical home' concept involves a team approach that coordinates and tracks patient care over time.

Use of electronic health records in the United States is on the rise, but previous studies have provided conflicting evidence about their impact. It hasn't been clear if they improve the quality of patient care.

Previous studies on the effects of electronic health records for outpatients have had mixed results, study lead investigator Dr. Lisa Kern, associate professor of public health and medicine, said in the news release.

"This is one of the first studies to find a positive association between the use of [electronic health records] and quality of care in a typical community-based setting, using an off-the-shelf electronic health record that has not been extensively tailored and refined," she said. "This increases the [ability to generalize] these findings."

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about electronic health records.

SOURCE: Weill Cornell Medical College, news release, Oct. 9, 2012

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