Despite the federal government’s push for health care providers to adopt electronic health records (EHRs), there is little evidence to support the idea that EHR adoption will bring about an improvement in quality of care for patients.
In fact, a report published earlier this year out of Stanford University revealed that the use EHRs and clinical decision support (CDS) tools did not improve quality of care. However, critics noted that the report was based on 3-year old data and did not account for EHR-related activity — such as health information exchange among providers at separate locations — that could help improve quality of care and outcomes.
Now a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine offers a glimmer of hope for EHR adoption advocates. The research is based on publicly reported data of 27,000 adults with diabetes who received care in 46 practices — some paper-based, some EHR-based — across the Cleveland metro area from July 2009 through June 2010. Researchers found that:
- 50.9% of patients at EHR-based practices received care for diabetes that met all endorsed standards, while only 6.6% of patients at paper-based practices met all standards of care.
- 43.7% of patients at EHR-based practices met at least four of the five outcome standards, compared to 15.7% of those at paper-based sites.
Even after adjusting for insurance type, age, sex, race or ethnic group, language preference, estimated household income and educational level, the numbers reveal that patients at the EHR-based practices received better care than those at paper-based practices. The report authors conclude that the “findings support the premise that federal policies encouraging the meaningful use of EHRs may improve the quality of care across insurance types.”