Study finds EHRs can improve patient care

Electronic health records are more than just a sign of the times changing and technology following suit: EHRs could be key in improving patient care, especially in emergency situations, according to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs. Paper charts may contain much of the same information as EHRs, but they do not provide a comprehensive overview of a patient's entire medical history, nor do they allow the various physicians that may be caring for a patient to share information.

The immediate impact of EHRs
The study, which was conducted by three neuroradiologists at Froedtert & the Medical College Hospital, scrutinized the CT scans of 2,000 patients. The doctors took the information that was recorded by emergency room personnel and compared it to information that was presented by radiologists who were able to access EHRs. The radiologists came to the conclusion that with the help of EHRs, the ways in which they interpreted the CT scans were affected greatly by having access to these records. The study also found that if health care providers do not review patients' EHRs, it can have a negative effect on the quality of care. 

Figuring out how EHRs affect medical treatment
The doctors conducting the study found that 6.1 percent of the CT scans that were supplemented by information from EHRs had a good chance of affecting the way in which the scan was interpreted, and that the patients would have been worse off had the doctors not had EHRs on hand. Nine percent of CT scans inspected left the investigating physicians with the impression that without EHRs they would have come up with a reading that was inaccurate or otherwise unfavorably impacted by the absence of EHRs.

"This study exemplifies the power of EHR's and their potential impact on patient care and positive outcomes. Health care providers must recognize the value of implementing EHR's and foster their widespread adoption," said one of the study's authors, John L. Ulmer, M.D.

Ulmer went on to discuss the federal government's push to get health care providers to adopt certified EHR technology through a financial incentive program.

"The federal government has made a significant investment in the adoption of these systems, particularly with the challenges of expanding remote access to high-quality care," he noted.

Some of the government's goals to get as many health care providers on board with EHRs are to improve the quality and safety of health care, engage patients on a deeper level and improve the security of patients' information.