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Electronic Health Records Linked to Improved Care for Diabetes Patients

2009 law mandates use of EHRs (September 10)

The implementation of electronic health records (EHRs) in a large, integrated health care delivery system resulted in significant decreases in the numbers of emergency room visits and hospitalizations for diabetes patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study is the first to show a reduction in unfavorable clinical events due to the implementation of EHRs.

“Using the electronic health record in the outpatient setting improved the quality of care in ways that cumulatively resulted in fewer negative events,” said lead author Mary Reed, DrPH.

EHRs were implemented in 17 medical centers across Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California region between 2005 and 2008. The study sample included 169,711 patients over 1 year old with diabetes in the Kaiser Permanente diabetes clinical registry between 2004 and 2009.

Annual emergency room visits declined 5.5%, from 519 visits per 1,000 diabetes patients before EHRs to 490 visits per 1,000 diabetes patients afterward. Annual hospitalizations declined 5.2%, from 252 per 1,000 diabetes patients before EHRs to 239 per 1,000 diabetes patients afterward. The researchers did not find a significant change in the number of office visits for patients with diabetes before and after EHRs were implemented.

“Since our study finds EHR-related improvement in care quality and outcomes without changes in office visit rates, this may reflect greater efficiency during visits or care delivery between visits,” the authors wrote in the JAMA article.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 authorized up to $27 billion in federal payments over 10 years to promote the use of EHRs, with penalties beginning in 2015 for medical practices that do not use them.

Source: Kaiser Permanente; September 10, 2013.

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