Impact of EHR use in EDs not as positive as expected

Although many industry experts tout the financial and quality of care benefits of electronic health records, evidence of their benefit for emergency departments remains mixed, according to a study recently published in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association

Specifically, researchers studied the use of EHRs to treat 5,166 adults with heart failure in three Minneapolis-Minnesota area EDs, according to an abstract of the study. EHRs were used in all three locations for patients who already had a medical record generated.

At two of the EDs, the patients had lower death rates if hospitalized, underwent fewer lab tests in the ED, and received fewer medications, a CMIO article reports. However, patients seen in the third ED had longer lengths of stay, despite the use of electronic records. 

Evidence on the benefits of the EHRs varied, according to researchers, possibly due to differences among the three locations, the patient groups treated at each location, and the type of health delivery systems utilized.

Still, the authors expressed optimism that EHRs have "the potential to be a valuable adjunct in the care of health failure patients." Not surprising, considering another recent study published in JAMIA found that Memphis area hospitals saved money by sharing health information exchange data. 

A third study, also published in JAMIA focusing on a pediatric ED department, indicated that the transition to EHRs increased length of stay, albeit only temporarily.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the CMIO article