Use EHRs to avoid unnecessary care

Electronic health records can do more than identify which patients should be receiving preventive and other additional services. They can also help providers pinpoint who shouldn't receive care. 

That's the upshot of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The researchers studied EHR data from clinics affiliated with Northwestern University to see if the data could flag and measure whether certain patients were receiving pap smears too frequently.  Clinical guidelines recommend that women at low risk for cervical cancer be screened for the disease every three years; more frequent screening is only justified for those at high risk. The researchers used the EHR data to measure the screenings.

The study found that EHR data was sufficiently precise to better identify which women are at low risk for cervical center. The EHR data also revealed that 66 percent of women in the study at low risk for cervical cancer received a pap test sooner than the three year interval recommended by clinical guidelines. In addition to the overutilization, the false positives sometimes associated with these screenings resulted in 21 unnecessary follow-up procedures, representing inefficient care and adding to the women's financial burden and psychological stress.

The researchers suggested that this use of EHRs to decrease the overuse of low value, redundant lab tests "could improve quality and decrease costs, maximizing value with the US healthcare system." 

To learn more:
- see the study abstract