Payment incentives tied to electronic health records can positively influence patient care, even in small physician practices, according to new research published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The researchers, from the University of California, San Francisco, speculated whether providing small practices not only with EHRs but also with performance incentives, would spur better outcomes. They conducted a randomized trial of practices in a New York City incentive program, where all of the practices received the same EHR software and onsite quality improvement support. Some practices also received payments for each patient whose care met specific cardiovascular performance criteria, such as blood pressure control and smoking cessation interventions.
The researchers found that both groups enjoyed "modest" improvements in cardiovascular patient care and outcomes. The practices that received money for their efforts scored higher.
"In this cluster-randomized study of P4P incentives, we found that EHR-enabled small practices were able to respond to incentives to improve cardiovascular care processes and intermediate outcomes," the authors said in a statement. "This provides evidence that, in the context of increasing uptake of EHRs with robust clinical management tools, small practices may be able to improve their quality performance in response to an incentive."
It's well acknowledged that the Meaningful Use incentive program is the primary driver for providers' adoption of EHRs, with almost $15.9 billion in incentive payments having been doled out since the program's inception in 2011. An increasing quantity of evidence also indicates that if used appropriately, EHRs can improve patient care and outcomes.