AHRQ: EHR use must increase

Electronic health records should be adopted by more providers and by a wider range of provider types, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ's) latest health care quality and disparity reports.

The companion reports, released April 20, find that EHRs can improve the quality and safety of care in all types of hospitals.

"In emergency departments, for instance, electronic clinical documentation and decision support can help mitigate problems of treating new patients with complicated medical histories and gaps in their medical records. EHRs can also provide effective decision support and clinical reminders to facilitate a seamless transition of care by reducing communication breakdown between different providers," the reports say.

AHRQ notes that providers and plans have begun to use EHRs to provide more effective care coordination and to increase the data collected on ethnic and minority populations.

However, coordination of care is still faulty, with only 13 percent of hospitals able to exchange medical information electronically to hospitals outside their system and one-fourth (28 percent) capable of exchanging this information with ambulatory providers outside their systems. Only 73 percent of hospitals could communicate electronically other hospitals in their own system.

For the first time, AHRQ also recommends that EHRs should be used more in hospice and home care, especially as the number of older adults continues to increase, since it would lead not only to improved outcomes but also reduced costs.

There have been other reports that EHRs in home care settings benefit patients and create cost savings. Geisinger Health Plan recently reported that its telemonitoring of home care patients, which tied into Geisinger's EHRs, reduced readmission rates by 44 percent.  Some providers have already taken a lead in expanding their EHR use to home health.

To learn more:
- here's AHRQ's announcement
- here's the quality report (.pdf)
- read the disparities report (.pdf)
- read about Geisinger's study
- read this Healthcare IT News article

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