NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 11, 2007

Electronic medical records (EMR) have been hailed as a key element in making U.S. medical care more effective and efficient, but they were not associated with improved quality of outpatient health care in 2003 and 2004, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Of 17 quality indicators assessed by the study:

  • EMR made no significant difference in 14 indicators, including prescribing recommended antibiotics; diet and exercise counseling for high-risk adults; screening tests; and avoiding potentially inappropriate prescriptions for elderly patients.
  • In 2 quality areas -- not prescribing benzodiazepine tranquilizers for patients with depression, and avoiding routine urinalysis during general medical exams -- doctors using electronic record systems fared better than those who didn't.
  • But when it came to prescribing statins for patients with high cholesterol, physicians using electronic systems did worse.

Senior author Randall Stafford, an associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, says the study doesn't discount the value of electronic health records, but points out that the entire health-care system needs to embrace the concept of improving the quality of care delivered in clinic and office visits.

With more U.S. patients seeking medical help in managing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma, Stafford says an electronic medical record system can be a valuable tool for physicians.  "But there has to be recognition within the entire health-care system that chronic disease prevention and management deserves emphasis," he said.

Source: "Electronic Health Records Didn't Improve Quality Of Outpatient Care,", July 10, 2007.

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