Are Patients Benefiting from EHR?

A study of 27,000+ diabetes sufferers in and around Cleveland, Ohio over 3 years found that care afforded to patients with EHRs met standards of care more often than patients with paper records. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, signals that federal investments in electronic health records (EHRs) could be leading to healthier patients.

Highlights of the study’s noteworthy results include:

  • Standards of Care: Over 50% of EHR patients received care that met all standards. Only 7% of patients with paper records received comparable care. After adjusting results to level patient characteristics, EHR patients received care in line with standards 35% more frequently.
  • Patient Outcomes: Over 40% of EHR patients met at least 4 of the 5 outcome standards. Only 16% of patients with paper records experienced similar outcomes. After adjusting results to level patient characteristics, EHR patient outcomes fell in line with standards 15% more frequently.
  • Trends Over Time: After adjusting for patient differences, EHR practices showed annual improvements in care that were 10% greater than paper-based practices. EHR patients experienced 4% greater annual improvements in outcomes than patients with paper records.
  • Performance Across Insurance Types: Patients in EHR practices showed better results, including improvements over time, in both standards of care and outcomes across all insurance categories – commercial, Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured.

Over 500 primary care physicians across 40+ practices in the collaborative Better Health Greater Cleveland participated. Patients who visited the same practice twice in one year were included.

The study was conducted by Better Health Greater Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Randall D. Cebul, M.D. and Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, the study’s lead author was “…not surprised by these results. They were influenced by several factors, including our public reporting on agreed-upon standards of care and the willingness of our clinical partners to share their EHR-based best practices while simultaneously competing on their execution.”

David Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.P., Professor of Medicine and Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School and past National Coordinator for Health Information Technology says “These results support the expectation that federal support of electronic health records will generate quality-related returns on our investments… I am especially pleased that the benefits reported in this investigation spanned all insurance types, including Medicaid and uninsured patients, since it is essential that the modern information technologies improve care for all Americans, including our most vulnerable citizens.”

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, M.D., director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality within HHS agrees: “The results of this study support both the value of electronic health records and community-based partnerships to improve quality of care.”

Sources: FierceHealthIT, Better Health Greater Cleveland