EHRs help docs to reduce unnecessary prescriptions

Electronic health records could greatly reduce unnecessarily antibiotics prescriptions, a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.

In retrospective research of more than 28,000 patient EHRs between 2006 and 2011, doctors were found to have prescribed antibiotics for patients presenting with a fever or cold-like symptoms 45 percent of the time, according to Reuters.

What's more, the range of prescribing among physicians varied from 18 percent to 84 percent, with physicians more likely to prescribe antibiotics to patients during seasonal periods than pandemic periods. Hence, the more cases a doctor had for context of an illness, the less likely he or she was to assume that a prescription was the right course of action.

Study author Ari Robicsek, M.D., of Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University Health System told Reuters that the study's findings helped to visualize that context, and could continue to do so. Andrew Fine, M.D., a pediatric emergency medicine specialist from Boston Children's Hospital, agreed.

"The more cases [a doctor has] seen during an epidemic or a pandemic, they may be more comfortable not prescribing," Fine, who was not associated with the study, told Reuters. "There's an opportunity now to really take advantage of the massive investment in surveillance and the massive investment in electronic health records to improve patient care."

A report released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came to a similar conclusion regarding public health surveillance. "Electronic health records offer an opportunity to improve links between healthcare providers and public health departments, making surveillance more effective and timely," the report said.

To learn more:
- here's the Annals of Internal Medicine abstract
- here's the Reuters story