EHRs improve quality outcomes for physician practices

Electronic health record use in physician practices was linked to improved patient care, according to research published this month in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The study examined ambulatory practices in the Hudson Valley of New York with a median size of four physicians.

Quality of care was found to be significantly improved in hemoglobin A1c testing for diabetics, breast cancer screenings, Chlamydia screenings and colorectal cancer screenings. The researchers looked at results for a total of 466 physicians and 74,618 unique patients. Forty-four percent of the physicians (204) had adopted EHRs, while 56 percent (262) continued to use paper records.

Lisa Kern, M.D., an associate professor of public health and medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and lead investigator for the research, said that this study is one of the first to correlate EHR use in a community-based setting with improved quality of care.

"The previous studies on the effects of electronic health records in the outpatient setting have been mixed," Kern said, according to EMR Daily News. "This increases the generalizability of these findings."

Albeit in a different setting, research recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the use of electronic health records to track 169,711 diabetes patients at 17 medical centers between 2004 and 2009 led to improvements in care quality for those patients. According to Marc Jaffe, M.D., a clinical leader of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program, increases in information availability, decision support and order-entry functionality helped clinicians to identify the most appropriate patients for drug-treatment intensification and re-testing.

Despite such results, some physicians remain on the fence about EHRs. According to survey results unveiled last month by the Physician's Foundation, out of more than 9,000 docs who said they had implemented an EHR, about 47 percent were "significantly concerned" that EHRs posed a risk to patient privacy. To be fair, that survey analyzed responses from a total of 13,575 responding physicians out of more than 630,000 who were contacted.

In July, officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT revealed that physicians are still encountering problems overcoming barriers to meeting the Meaningful Use requirements. Regional extension centers reported close to 16,000 issues impacting more than 45,000 providers, with the main barriers being practice issues, vendor issues, attestation process problems and Meaningful Use measures.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the EMR Daily News article