Thursday, November 19, 2009

EMRs don't improve health care---yet

Claims made over the last several years that EMRs lead to better quality of care have been devoid of supporting evidence. Now we have evidence from a large study that EMRs in fact don't improve quality. I apologize for not having a better source for this than a New York Times article, which reports that the findings were to have been reported at a conference in Boston. Unfortunately, the article didn't provide a link to the conference proceedings and didn't name the conference. Maybe I'll find the primary source later. In the mean time the article reports:

But a new study comparing 3,000 hospitals at various stages in the adoption of computerized health records has found little difference in the cost and quality of care.

“The way electronic medical records are used now has not yet had a real impact on the quality or cost of health care,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, who led the research project.

Unfortunately the study looked at performance measures, and performance measures do not equal quality. But the study still makes a strong statement because performance measures represent the bare minimum standards, the lowest of the low hanging fruit. So if EMRs didn't improve performance measures you can be darn sure they had little or no impact on real quality.

I agree with the comments of the interviewees in the article, that we have years to go before we utilize EMRs effectively, in a way that will improve patient care.

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