Doctors who go digital do appear to provide significantly better health care, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
US health authorities as well as the federal government itself are pushing doctors, clinics and health centers to move into the digital world. The US government has introduced incentives worth up to $29 billion for “meaningful” use of EHRs (electronic health records). Health authorities say with such modern technology doctors, clinics and hospitals will be able to better track and improve patient outcomes.
Lisa Kern and team set out to determine what effect EHRs might have on the ambulatory care quality in a community-based setting. They compared the performance of doctors who used electronic health records to those with manual (paper) records.
They gathered and examined data on 466 primary care physicians (general practitioners) who had a total of 74,618 patients. They all worked in private practices in the Hudson Valley, New York.
The researchers focused on nine specific measures:
- cholesterol testing
- colorectal cancer screening
- eye examinations
- hemoglobin testing
- renal function testing for patients with diabetes
- screening for breast cancer
- screening for chlamydia
- sore throat testing for children
- upper respiratory infection treatment for children
Fifty-seven per cent of the GPs in this study had electronic health records and used them, while the the rest were still on manual paper systems.
The researchers found that those with electronic health records provided superior health care services compared to the paper-records ones. In these four measures, doctors with electronic health records were considerably superior in their quality of care – Chlamydia screening, breast cancer screening, hemoglobin testing in diabetes, and colorectal cancer screening.
Electronic Health Records
Overall, electronic health record usage leads to better health care services, the researchers concluded:
“We found that electronic health record use is associated with higher quality ambulatory care. This study’s finding is consistent with national efforts to promote meaningful use of EHRs.”
Doctors generally welcome electronic health record usage. The American College of Physicians (ACP) published a study which showed that the vast majority of doctors believe electronic exchange of health data will have a positive impact on improving patient-care quality, coordination care, and will meet the demands of new care models.
Michael S. Barr, MD, FACP, MBA, who leads ACP’s Medical Practice, Professionalism & Quality division, said:
“The exchange of patient health information across care settings is a critical component to the success of the new models to improve care, such as the patient-centered medical home. ACP agrees with the 78 percent of survey respondents who believe that exchanging health information will have a positive effect on clinicians’ ability to meet the demands of these new care models.”
How do patients feel about having their medical records being digitized?
In New York State, patients have to consent to having their data accessed through a health information exchange (HIE). In general, they are happy for their data to be shared electronically, as long as their privacy is respected.
Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College telephone-surveyed 170 residents and found that over two-thirds of respondents were happy to have their health data automatically stored in an HIE.
Is your practice ready to make the switch to electronic health records but unsure of how to qualify for the government assistance that was put into place by the affordable care act? If so give EHR Funding a call today at 866-203-3260 today. One of our trained funding specialists will be able to walk you through the steps to qualifying and receiving your health care stimulus funding.