The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released new data July 17 that demonstrate healthcare providers are using electronic health records to provide more information securely to patients and to help manage care.
Eligible healthcare providers who have adopted or meaningfully used certified EHRs can receive incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Already, approximately 80% of eligible hospitals and more than 50% of eligible professionals have adopted EHRs and received incentive payments from Medicare or Medicaid, according to a news release.
Since the EHR Incentive Programs began in 2011:
• More than 190 million electronic prescriptions have been sent by clinicians using EHRs, reducing the chances of medication errors.
• Healthcare professionals sent 4.6 million patients an electronic copy of their health information from their EHRs.
• More than 13 million reminders about appointments, required tests or check-ups were sent to patients using EHRs.
• Providers have checked drug and medication interactions to ensure patient safety more than 40 million times through EHRs.
• Providers shared more than 4.3 million care summaries with other providers when patients moved between care settings, resulting in better patient outcomes.
“Electronic health records are transforming relationships between patients and their healthcare providers,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, RN, BSN, MHA, said in the release. “EHRs improve care coordination, reduce duplicative tests and procedures, help patients take more control of their health and result in better overall health outcomes.”
EHRs slow cost increases
Compared with traditional paper records, EHRs can reduce the costs of outpatient care by roughly 3%, an average of $5.14 per patient per month, according to a recent study.
The study, done at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, examined more than four years of healthcare cost data for patients in nine Massachusetts communities, according to a news release. Costs of doctors visits and laboratory, pharmacy and radiology services typically ordered during those visits were considered “outpatient care” for the study, published in the July 16 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
In the study, 47,979 patients from three communities that widely adopted EHRs were compared with 130,603 patients in six control communities that did not. The findings support the assumption that computerizing medical histories can lead to lower healthcare expenses, according to the release.
“To me, this is good news,” study leader Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, an assistant professor in the universitys School of Information and School of Public Health, said in the release. “We found 3% savings, and while that might not sound huge, if it could be sustained or even increased, it would be a substantial amount.”
According to Adler-Milstein, the findings did not mean costs decreased, but instead they didnt increase as quickly in the communities that adopted EHRs. The results suggest adopting EHRs could help slow rising healthcare costs, she said in the release.
The communities that computerized their records did so near the middle of the study period, 2005-09. All nine communities had applied to be part of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaboratives pilot that gave funding and support for entire cities worth of physicians offices to convert their records. According to the release, experts believe its important for the shift to occur throughout entire communities, rather than piecemeal, to maximize the benefits from EHRs.
Adler-Milstein and her colleagues calculated healthcare costs per patient per month, examining total cost and separating the data into hospital care and outpatient care. They also examined outpatient costs for prescriptions and laboratory and radiology services, according to the release.
The researchers did not find savings in total costs or inpatient costs, but the savings appeared when they looked only at outpatient care.
Most of the savings were in radiology, she said, adding doctors may have ordered fewer imaging studies because they had better access to patients medical histories.
Study abstract: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1709804