The use of electronic health records is associated with a decrease in emergency department visits and hospitalizations of diabetic patients, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The researchers, from Kaiser Permanente's Research Division, analyzed the records of 169,711 diabetic patients in Kaiser's diabetes registry before and after implementation of HealthConnect--Kaiser's system-wide EHR system--from 2004 through 2009. They found that annual emergency department visits declined 5.5 percent and hospitalizations declined 5.2 percent, a "modest" but still statistically significant reduction in adverse health events. The research did not reveal any significant change in the number of office visits by diabetic patients.
The study's authors suggested that changes in care delivery occasioned by the EHRs--such as workflow, electronic order entry and communication changes--caused the improvements. They also opined that the results are not limited to diabetes care.
"[W]e hypothesize that EHR use may also act through many other pathways for other conditions to produce the overall reductions in ED visits and hospitalizations that we found," the researchers said in a statement.
They recommended further study to quantify if EHR use was also associated with changes in healthcare costs.
Other studies have shown that EHRs can improve the treatment and control of diabetes, one of the most common and difficult to treat chronic conditions. Kaiser has been at the forefront of EHR use and diabetes care research, and has identified other links between the two.