Study highlights benefits of EHRs amid implementation challenges


Electronic Health Records (EHRs) boost the quality of care for patients, according to a new study from the University of Missouri; however, implementation of EHRs has been challenging for physicians and hospitals, as they are rated as cumbersome and inefficient by users.

“They have the potential to be very helpful, but in practice they tend to be very disruptive because it’s time consuming to train personnel how to use them. They’re expensive, and there’s always new complicated updates and new forms that come out, and there is often a lack of interoperability for the data to be shared among different health care organizations,” said Kate Trout, PhD, assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions and lead author on the study in a statement. “Given the massive national investments, we wanted to see if electronic health records are being utilized in a meaningful way to promote interoperability and ultimately improve quality of care.”

More than $30 billion has been invested by the federal government in the adoption and use of electronic health records by health care organizations to improve the quality of care delivered to patients, according to the study.

The study analyzed the impact on mortality rates for patients with various medical procedures and conditions. More than 5 million patients in 300 U.S. hospitals were included in the study, which merged large datasets from the electronic health records, the American Hospital Association and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

There were three main categories identified: hospitals that met meaningful use requirements with the EHRs, those that fully implemented EHRs but did not meet meaningful use requirements, and those that either did not implement or only partially implemented EHRs.

Hospitals that met the meaningful use requirements improved the quality of care and reduce mortality rates more than those from the other two groups.

“This research highlights the importance of using electronic health records in a way that promotes interoperability to streamline processes, speed up decision-making, reduce wasted time and ultimately improve patient health outcomes,” Trout said. “Ideally, the United States could implement one standardized electronic health records system for everyone to ensure compatibility, so policy makers can hopefully benefit from this research.”

She said that using data mining and analytics may be useful combined with EHRs to identify patients at higher risks for various conditions.

The fully study, “The impact of electronic health records and meaningful use on inpatient quality,” was published in Journal for Healthcare Quality.

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