Electronic medical records reduce negative outcomes and related costs after patient safety events occur

Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386

Expectations remain high that health information technology, particularly electronic medical records (EMRs), will improve clinical outcomes while reducing health care costs. One of the most costly aspects of medical care is patient safety events. A new study by William E. Encinosa, Ph.D., from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and Jaeyong Bae, M.A., from Emory University found that EMRs do not reduce the rate of these events. However, after they occur, EMRs do reduce the negative outcomes and related costs that can occur.

The two researchers obtained patient outcome data on 35 million enrollees in employer-sponsored benefit plans for large employers in all 50 States. This included information on claims for inpatient and outpatient care and prescription drugs. They also used an information technology database to obtain EMR data on 92,853 non-elderly adults undergoing major surgeries at 2,619 hospitals. Annual hospital survey data were used to determine hospital characteristics. Nearly 21 percent of surgeries were performed in hospitals with basic EMRs.

Overall, 5 percent of the surgeries resulted in at least 1 of 24 potentially preventable adverse medical events. No differences in the rates of patient safety events were observed between EMR and non-EMR hospitals. However, EMR hospitals spent less on a patient safety event ($55,810) than non-EMR hospitals ($60,093). Also, in EMR hospitals, deaths after patient safety events were reduced by 34 percent and hospital readmissions by 39 percent. Additional research is needed to determine why EMRs do not prevent patient safety events, but do reduce negative outcomes once they occur.

See "How can we bend the cost curve? Health information technology and its effects on hospital costs, outcomes, and patient safety," by Dr. Encinosa and Ms. Bae, in the Winter 2011/2012 Inquiry 48, pp. 288-303. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 12-R069) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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Current as of October 2012
Internet Citation: Electronic medical records reduce negative outcomes and related costs after patient safety events occur: Research Activities, October 2012, No. 386. October 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/oct12/1012RA12.html