Racial disparities reduced through EHR use

The use of electronic health records may help to reduce racial disparities in healthcare, according to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine

According to researchers, EHRs with clinical decision support are associated with improved blood pressure control both for whites and blacks, and appear to close the gap between the two. The study involved a survey of physicians throughout the country who had examined more than 17,000 patient visits where blood pressure was taken, according to Reuters Health.

When physicians used paper records, 69 percent of blacks and 75 percent of whites were estimated to have their blood pressure under control. When EHRs were used, however, the disparity decreased, with 75 percent of blacks and 78 percent of whites reporting their blood pressure to be under control.

The results of the study aren't necessarily surprising. In a similar study published in the September 2011 American Journal of Managed Care, the same authors using much of the same data found that the rate of patients who had their blood pressure under control were higher in primary care visits when physicians used EHRs with clinical decision support.  

The authors surmised that the use of an electronic system "brings new guidelines to the point of care" and that the immediacy of a point of care reminder from the clinical decision support "may impact clinical inertia, which has been cited as a major cause of undertreated hypertension." The report also noted that EHRs flag persistent uncontrolled blood pressure.  

To learn more:
- read this Reuters Health article
- here's an abstract of the racial disparity study
- check out this related study