Hospitals with EHR Found to Have Better Patient Outcomes

Electronic Health Records are somewhat controversial — some people think they’re a great idea, some people really don’t.

Evidence is starting to come in regarding whether they make a difference, and the news seems to be pretty good.

Nurse.com has an article explaining a new study out of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, the first of its kind:

They studied more than 16,000 nurses working at 316 hospitals in four states and found that “implementation of an EHR may result in improved and more efficient nursing care, better care coordination and patient safety,” wrote lead author Ann Kutney-Lee, RN, PhD, a health outcomes researcher, and co-author Deena Kelly, RN, MS, a fellow at Penn Nursing.

At the same time, the authors wrote, “it is important to note that having a basic EHR was associated with better outcomes independently of nurse staffing, indicating that they both play an important role in quality of care.”

Nurses in hospitals with fully implemented basic EHRs were significantly less likely to report unfavorable patient safety issues, frequent medication errors and low quality of care. These findings suggest that the level of detail available in the EHR may allow for more comprehensive unit transfer reports and discharge summaries to outside healthcare providers.

Recent estimates have reported that only 12% of U.S. hospitals have a basic EHR system in place, the authors noted, but that is likely to change under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Beginning in 2011 under HITECH, Medicare and Medicaid began to offer federal incentive payments of $2 million or more to healthcare providers and hospitals to use EHR technologies.

“With the passage of the HITECH Act, EHRs are rapidly becoming part of the daily practice of the bedside nurse,” Kutney-Lee said. “Nursing administrators should be fully engaged in the process of EHR adoption and implementation to ensure effective use and success in creating seamless transitions for patients throughout the healthcare continuum. The degree of support from nurse leaders for the EHR will affect the success of this technology’s implementation and, as a result, patient care.”

I was a bit surprised to see that only 12% of hospitals currently are using Electronic Health Records. It’s encouraging that they are making a positive difference.

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