Diabetes care, patient health improves with EHR use

The ongoing debate of whether electronic health records (EHRs) can make an impact on the delivery of quality healthcare is revisited in a new briefing that cites a link between physicians' use of EHRs in the Cleveland area and improved results for their patients with diabetes.

Early data from Better Health Greater Cleveland--a group that is a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's "Aligning Forces for Quality" initiative--found that 51 percent of diabetes patients in practices using EHRs received all the care they needed to address their diabetes, compared to only 7 percent in practices with paper records during the 2009-10 period.

Broken down further, this meant that for practices using EHRs, the percentages of patients meeting standards for diabetes care were higher for making sure hemoglobin A1c tests were performed, kidney management was maintained, eye examinations were made, and pneumonia vaccines were delivered.

For overall outcomes, the results for diabetes patients in practices using EHRs appeared higher (44 percent) compared with the paper practices (16 percent). Outcomes looked at achieving healthy patient goals and better care related to hemoglobin A1c scores, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, body mass index (BMI), and smoking status. (Only the BMI remained unchanged for practices using EHRs or paper.)

For both care and outcomes, patients treated at practices using the EHRs outpaced those in practices using paper files across all insurance types--whether the patients were covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or a commercial plan or were uninsured, according to a foundation brief.

The Better Health Greater Cleveland initiative is made up of more than 20 organizations representing providers, patients, payers, health plans, and state and local governments, and lead by physician leaders from large organizations and most of the region's safety-net practices.

For more information:
- see this Robert Wood Johnson Foundation brief (.pdf)
- view Better Health Greater Cleveland's report (.pdf)