EHRs Do Not Prevent Testing, Spending Among Clinicians
Despite the political bickering between Democrats and Republicans, both parties agree that electronic health records (EHRs) will lower health spending. EHR advocates believe that when clinicians have easy access to patients’ records, they are less prone to order duplicate and unnecessary tests that increase health care costs. Results of a recent study published in Health Affairs showed that assertion may not be valid.
Data from the 2008 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey of 28,741 patient visits to 1187 physi- cians showed that physicians who use EHRs may order more diagnostic testing. The researchers found that office-based physicians were 40% to 70% more likely to order an imaging test if they had access to computerized imaging results. The electronic availability of laboratory tests was also associated with the ordering of additional blood tests.
EHRs have been projected to save $77.8 billion annually, mainly by avoiding magnetic resonance imaging and laboratory tests. Clinicians can view a patient’s previous tests in real time, and can use this information to decide if an additional test is really needed.
Lead researcher Danny McCormick, MD, a primary care physician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said EHRs may be another example of a health care solution that looks good on paper, but may have some “unintended con- sequences” when implemented in the real world.
The researchers concluded that the use of these “health information technologies, whatever their other benefits, remains unproven as an effective cost-control strategy with respect to reducing the ordering of unnecessary tests.”
Survey Found Advantages, Limitations With New Hit Systems
A new report released by CDW Healthcare, “The Healthcare IT Tipping Point,” examined the impact of new health information technology (HIT) systems on health care organizations. The report is based on a January 2012 survey of physicians, nurses, and other caregivers employed at hospitals with at least 200 beds.
During the last 18 months, hospitals with 200 or more beds have rolled out a large number of new, complex HIT systems. The survey found that 56% of hospitals have deployed an EHR and 48% have deployed computerized physician order entry. A majority of the survey respondents said that patient care is better with HIT: 84% view HIT as invaluable or valuable and 71% believe they could accomplish just half of the responsibilities without the help of HIT systems.
Clinicians also expressed frustrations with the new systems. Of the survey respondents, 37% said the implementation of new HIT systems can be frustrating because it requires the memorization of additional passwords and 31% said they make work processes take longer. In addition, 25% said they experience frustration with new HIT systems that lack user-friendly interfaces, and 25% said they are unable to keep up with the changing HIT system.
Latino Groups Want to Cut Disparities with Hit
During a recent meeting in Washington, DC, Latino groups attending the EHRInsight 2015 series rallied together to devise ways of improving access to HIT and reducing health care disparities in their communities.
Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association and the National Latino Alliance on Health Information Technology (LatinoHIT) said that access to HIT is crucial to medical advancement in Latino communities. Leaders of the 2 groups said that the adoption of HIT provides a viable solution for closing health disparities.
However, without addressing the digital divide, medical practices in underserved communities will continue to face challenges. Understanding the breadth of these technologies is an important first step in preventing the detrimental effect on Latino communities across the country.
“The goal of the EHRInsight 2015 series is to provide an opportunity for Latino medical IT professionals to dialogue with each other about key concerns in the national adoption of health care information technology in our community,” said Jose Marquez-Leon, a national managing director of LatinoHIT. “We must continue to raise awareness of the digital divide in the medical industry and pay special attention to the electronic medical records adoption in the Hispanic community.”
The series emphasized the need for better coordination of HIT services in health care and the importance of empowering individuals to maintain and improve their health. Research has shown that HIT can reduce costs considerably through the adoption of EHRs and remote monitoring technology, ultimately improving patient care and outcomes as information becomes available in real time and in a centralized manner. PT
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