The use of electronic health records can reduce the costs of outpatient care
Use of electronic health records can reduce the costs of outpatient care by roughly 3 percent, compared to relying on traditional paper records.
That's according to a new study from the University of Michigan that examined more than four years of healthcare cost data in nine communities. The "outpatient care" category in the study included the costs of doctor's visits as well as services typically ordered during those visits in laboratory, pharmacy and radiology.
The study is groundbreaking in its breadth. It compares the healthcare costs of 179,000 patients in three Massachusetts communities that widely adopted electronic health records and six control communities that did not. The findings support the prevailing but sometimes criticized assumption that computerizing medical histories can lead to lower healthcare expenses.
"To me, this is good news," said Julia Adler-Milstein, an assistant professor in the U-M School of Information and School of Public Health who led the study. "We found 3 percent savings and while that might not sound huge, if it could be sustained or even increased, it would be a substantial amount.
"That said, when we talk about cost savings, it does not mean that the costs went down, but that the costs did not go up as quickly in the intervention communities. This suggests that adopting electronic records helped slow the rise in healthcare costs."
"I think our findings are significant because we provide evidence to support the use of taxpayer dollars to invest in electronic health records," Adler-Milstein said. "We really have not had compelling evidence that proved that they would save money. It was assumed, but there are a lot of skeptics. This study helps clarify whether there are cost savings and what the magnitude of those are in the near-term."
The study, "Effect of Electronic Health Records on Health Care Costs: Longitudinal Comparative Evidence from Community Practices," is published in the July 16 edition of Annals of Internal Medicine. The research was funded by the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.
The Usability People work with you on improving the Usability of Healthcare IT.
Together we may save a life! #SafeHealthIT