Study: Electronic records don't guarantee better hospital care

Implementing electronic health records (EHRs) does not guarantee higher-quality hospital care, according to a new study released Thursday.

EHRs are widely believed to help doctors deliver better and more efficient care because they can be easily shared and, in result, reduce unnecessary medical treatment. But a new Rand Corporation study said EHRs produce mixed results.

The study of more than 2,000 hospitals found facilities with basic EHRs demonstrated significantly better quality care for patients being treated for heart failure. However, hospitals with advanced EHRs did not provide higher-quality care among patients treated for heart attack or pneumonia.

“The introduction of increasingly complex technology into already complex work environments may trigger various unintended interactions that undermine or outweigh the potential benefits of the new technology,” the report said.

Lawmakers included as much as $30 billion in last year’s stimulus act to incentivize the adoption of EHR technology in accordance with federal guidelines to improve quality of care and coordination among providers.

On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that registration for Medicare EHR incentives would begin Jan. 3. Registration for Medicaid incentives begins on the same day for doctors and hospitals in Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.