Even a 10 percent increase in the hospital use of electronic medical records could save 16 babies for every 100,000 live births in the U.S. And, making a complete national transition to EHRs could save an estimated 6,400 infants each year nationwide, according to a new study published in the Journal of Political Economy.
The study looked at the death rates of infants at hospitals with and without EMRs in more than 2,500 counties nationwide over a 12-year period. The data set permitted the researchers--Amalia Miller of the University of Virginia and RAND, and Catherine Tucker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management--to control for other factors that could impact infant mortality, such as an area's socioeconomic status.
The EMRs helped give timely access of important patient information to providers so care could be improved and made more cost-effective when compared with other healthcare interventions, the researchers said.
Overall, the cost of saving one baby through EMR use was about $531,000. In comparison, a large expansion in Medicaid coverage for children in the 1980s cost about $840,000 per life saved, the researchers determined.
Until now, little empirical data had been available to support the assumptions about EMRs and infant mortality, according to Miller and Tucker. Their study "suggests cautious optimism about the potential value of...[EMRs] in improving neonatal health outcomes and current health policy that is directed toward increasing the spread of these technologies," they wrote.