Although one of the main goals of the Meaningful Use program is to improve the quality of care, there appears to be "no association" between being a "meaningful user" of electronic health records and the quality of care provided to patients, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The researchers studied the treatment of adult outpatients at Brigham and Women's Hospital and affiliated ambulatory practices during a 90-day reporting period in 2012 to assess if there were quality improvements on seven measures for five chronic diseases: hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, asthma, and depression. All of the physicians used the same advanced EHR.
Of the 858 physicians assessed, 63 percent were "meaningful users" of their EHRs. However, there was no association between attaining Meaningful Use and quality. Meaningful Use was "marginally" better for diabetes and hypertension, marginally worse for asthma and depression, and no better or worse for the remainder.
In a commentary accompanying the study, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College noted that the study raises questions about how to measure Meaningful Use. They pointed out that several variables can affect such assessments, such as the setting and duration of EHR use, the reliability of electronic reporting of quality measures and how physicians use EHRs to make clinical decisions.
They also noted that "EHRs appear to be associated with a higher quality of care, but it is not known whether achieving MU per se will result in greater quality gains than adoption of EHRs without achieving MU."
This is not the first time that there appears to be a disconnect between the Meaningful Use measures and quality. The General Accountability Office recently warned that the program's clinical quality measures were "unreliable."