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Tech That Powers Quality Standards

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, September 6, 2011

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine is among the first to put hard numbers on the benefits of electronic health records.

Researchers looked at four national quality standards, including:

  1. eye exams,
  2. pneumonia vaccinations,
  3. outcome measures such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol control,
  4. patient-driven issues such as obesity and smoking

Nearly 51% of patients in EHR practices received care that met all four quality standards, compared to just 7% of patients at paper-based practices. Nearly 44% of patients in EHR practices met at least four of five outcome standards, compared to about 16% of patients at paper-based practices.

The study is among the first to put hard numbers on the benefits of electronic health records. But as the study's lead author, Randall Cebul, MD, said in an interview this week, "51% is 49% short of ideal."

So what are the next steps? And how can health information technology get us there?

The problem of patient compliance and engagement

One finding of the research was that the benefit of electronic records was greater for care standards than it was for outcomes. And care standards that are largely patient-controlled—such as smoking and obesity—have been particularly troublesome.

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