This episode is about new research in Health IT. A study recently published suggests that advanced EHR applications may acutally increase hospital costs and nurse staffing levels. Another study showed that routine use of EHRs may improve the quality of care provided in primary practices. A third study illustrated that a hospital was successful at reducing drug errors through the implementation of a bar code-scanning system.
Date: August 2, 2010
Hello, I’m Dawn DiPaola and I will be discussing new research in Health IT. There are some conflicting reports concerning whether or not EHRs actually lead to cost savings and improved quality of care.
A study recently published online in Health Services Research suggests that advanced EHR applications may actually increase hospital costs and nurse staffing levels. Researchers from Arizona State University sought to determine the effects of EHR implementation on medical-surgical acute unit costs, length of stay, nursing staffing levels, nursing skill mix, nurse cost per hour and nurse-sensitive patient outcomes. The effects varied by each participating hospital’s stage of EHR implementation. However, in general, more advanced EHRs had the largest effects on costs, staffing and patient outcomes. The study authors found little evidence to support the proposition that EHRs generate significant cost savings to hospitals through reductions in length of stay and the demand for nurses.
However, a recent study by RAND Corporation researchers showed that routine use of EHRs may improve the quality of care provided in primary practices more than other quality improvement strategies. Researchers in Massachusetts studied 305 groups of primary care physicians and found that practices that utilized multifunctional EHRs were more likely to provide better care for diabetes and deliver specific health screenings compared to those that did not. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate a link between the use of EHRs in community-based medical practices and increased quality care.
And lastly, a study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed that the hospital was successful at reducing drug errors through the implementation of a bar code-scanning system. Researchers project that this new bar code scanning system will prevent 90,000 serious medication errors each year. The system is used in conjunction with electronic medical records. Each medication order appears electronically in the patient’s chart after pharmacist approval. Nurses are then alerted for each medication that is overdue. Before nurses give medications, they must scan the bar code on the patient’s wristband and then the medication itself. If there is a discrepancy between the scans and the medication order and timing, the nurse receives a warning. While it was clear that the new scanning system prevented medical errors, it isn’t clear if it actually saves money. Researchers intend to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the system.
I’m Dawn DePaola, and this is EHRtv NewsFlash. Thanks for watching.