Over time, EHR use improves quality outcomes: 6 things to know

Federal regulations have mandated hospitals adopt the EHR — and nearly all hospitals have — but determining whether EHR use has actually led to better patient outcomes is a challenge; however, a new study published in Health Affairs found a way to quantify that relationship.

A team of researchers led by UC San Francisco's Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, an associate professor in the department of medicine, analyzed various sources of data from 2008 to 2013 to identify the ties between EHR adoption and 30-day mortality rates at 3,249 hospitals. Specifically, the researchers reviewed Medicare hospital claims and data from the 2014 American Hospital Association Annual Survey Database, including responses to its Information Technology Supplement between 2008 and 2013.

Here are six things to know:

1. Baseline EHR adoption correlated with a 0.11 percent higher mortality rate per function.

2. As these baseline functions matured overtime, it was associated with a 0.09 percent lower mortality rate per function per year.

3. Each new function adopted during the study period garnered a 0.21 percent reduction in mortality rate per year per function.

4. Not all hospitals saw the same positive effects of digitization, but the favorable trend was driven mostly by smaller facilities and non-teaching hospitals.

5. The researchers suggested that larger facilities and teaching hospitals were already taking steps to improve quality so they had less room to improve upon implementing an EHR. In comparison, smaller and non-teaching hospitals may have realized EHR adoption sparked quality improvements, so they embarked on their own broader quality improvement initiatives.

6. "Our results reveal that the relationship between EHR adoption and performance is not as simple and straightforward as, "Does it work?'" the study reads. "[N]ational investment in hospital EHRs should yield improvements in mortality rates, but achieving them will take time."

Click here to download the study.

More articles on EHRs:

Errors in medical notes produced by speech recognition software could affect care
Pennsylvania awards $8M to help hospitals, ambulatory practices connect to state HIE: 3 notes
2 ways Yale Medicine is improving EHR usability

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