Increased e-prescribing could lead to fewer patient deaths

The Stage 1 Meaningful Use standards for computerized physician order entry (CPOE) may reduce the number of deaths from heart failure or heart attack, but applying proposed Stage 2 and 3 standards will really make a difference and improve patient outcomes, according to a study recently published in Health Affairs.

Stage 1 of Meaningful Use requires hospitals to use CPOE to place medication orders for at least 30 percent of eligible inpatients, which is deemed "probably too low" by the study's authors. Stage 2, however, potentially raises that clip to 60 percent, while Stage 3 raises the number to 80 percent. The former threshold could result in 1.2 percent fewer deaths from heart failure or heart attack, the study's authors determined, while at the 60 percent level, those results jumped to 2.1 percent fewer such deaths. 

"The findings of our study should be a cause for measured optimism," the authors noted.

Not everyone was impressed with the figures, though. EMR and HIPAA blogger John Lynn called the results "obvious," and said that Stage 1 was universally recognized as a "stepping stone." 

Still, Lynn conceded that if studies like this help achieve more use of electronic health records, then that's beneficial. "[S]ome very interesting and beneficial things can start to happen that wouldn't have been possible without EHR adoption," he writes.

To learn more:
- here's the study in Health Affairs (.pdf)
- read the EMR and HIPAA blog post