Electronic health records improve nursing care, coordination, and patient safety

Research Activities, May 2012, No. 381

A number of studies have demonstrated the benefits nurses receive when electronic health record (EHR) systems are put in place by hospitals. Generally, such systems improve nursing documentation, reduce medication errors, and make nurses feel more satisfied with their work environments. Now a new study finds that nurses working in an EHR environment are less likely to report poor patient safety compared to their peers working in non-EHR environments.

University of Pennsylvania researchers surveyed 16,362 nurses working in 316 hospitals in 4 States (California, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). Nurses were asked about their workload and patient outcomes, as well as their hospital's patient safety culture using items from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture. Of the 316 hospitals, only 7 percent had a basic EHR system functioning on all patient care units.

The nurses from hospitals with fully implemented EHRs were significantly less likely to report unfavorable outcomes compared to nurses working in hospitals without fully implemented EHRs. Fewer nurses in the fully implemented hospitals reported frequent medication errors, poor quality of care, and poor confidence in a patient being ready for discharge. These nurses also had a 14 percent decrease in the odds of reporting that "things fell between the cracks" when patients were transferred between units. They were also less likely to report that patient safety is a low priority for hospital management. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS18534).

See "The effect of hospital electronic health record adoption on nurse-assessed quality of care and patient safety," by Ann Kutney-Lee, Ph.D., R.N. and Deena Kelly, M.S., R.N., in the November 2011 Journal of Nursing Administration 41(11), pp. 466-472.

Current as of May 2012
Internet Citation: Electronic health records improve nursing care, coordination, and patient safety: Research Activities, May 2012, No. 381. May 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/may12/0512RA11.html