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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Emergency room use and hospitalization rates for diabetes patients declined after a large California medical provider introduced an electronic health records system, finds a five year study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study of 170,000 Kaiser Permanente Northern California diabetes patients (from 2004-2009) found an average of 501 emergency department visits per 1000 patients declined to 490 after Kaiser’s clinics began to use an electronic health records system (EHR) for outpatient treatment.
The study found an average of 252 hospitalizations per 1000 diabetes patients declined to 238 per 1000 after Kaiser Permanente’s clinics used the health care provider’s EHR. The specific hospitalizations for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions also fell from a mean of 67 per 1000 to about 60 per 1000 diabetes patients after the use of an EHR for diabetes outpatient treatment.
The comparative, overall declines in emergency department visits and aforementioned hospitalizations among Kaiser Permanente’s diabetes patients were statistically significant, or did not occur by chance. There was no overall difference in the frequency of patient visits to a physician’s office after Kaiser’s clinics began to use the health system’s EHR.
The study’s nine authors estimate Kaiser’s cost savings from reduced emergency department and hospitalizations were about $158,478 per 1000 patients each year. Overall, they write (and we quote): ‘the estimated reductions in emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations that we identified for patients with diabetes may have potential to affect ED and hospitalization costs’ (end of quote).
The authors acknowledge future research needs to provide a more comprehensive assessment of the cost savings after the implementation of an EHR. They add the findings are limited to diabetes patients within one large health care provider (within one U.S. state) and may not be generalizable to other states and different medical systems. For example, the authors explain the reductions in emergency department use and reduced hospitalizations were not uniform among all of the 17 Kaiser Permanente clinics where the five year study was conducted.
On the other hand, the authors note the study is the most comprehensive to date about the impact of outpatient EHR use on adverse health outcomes. The authors explain they assessed diabetes patients in order to observe the impact of EHR use on an outpatient basis among adults with a chronic (or ongoing) medical condition over time.
The authors conclude (and we quote): ‘We extend the evidence of EHR-related improvements in care delivery by further describing statistically significant modest reductions in downstream adverse health outcomes measured by ED visits and hospitalizations’ (end of quote).
Meanwhile, MedlinePlus.gov’s personal health records health topic page provides information about the physician adoption of EHRs in the ‘statistics’ section. Information about the adoption of EHRs within residential care communities and office-based physicians also is provided within the same section.
A overview that explains how and why EHRs are implemented in medical centers is available in the ‘MedlinePlus Magazine’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s personal health records health topic page.
A helpful explanation (from the National Institutes of Health) about how to protect the privacy and security of your health information is available in the ‘related issues’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s personal health records health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s personal health records health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. You can sign up to receive updates about personal health records (and EHRs) as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s personal health records health health topic page, type ‘personal health records’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘personal health records (National Library of Medicine).’
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