Government's incentives for electronic medical record (EMR) adoption could pay off in improved quality of care, according to a new study. It found that patients in physician practices that used EMRs got better care and had better outcomes than those in physician practices that used paper records.


The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at 500 primary care physicians treating 27,000 adults with diabetes.


According to the study, those patients in physician practices that used EMRs were significantly more likely to have care that met certain standards as well as positive outcomes than those in physician practices that used paper records.


Standards included timely measurements of blood sugar, management of kidney problems, eye examinations, and vaccinations for pneumonia. Positive outcomes included meeting national benchmarks for blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol control, as well as achieving a non-obese body mass index and avoidance of tobacco use.


Almost 51 percent of patients at EMR-based practices received care that met all of the endorsed standardscompared to only 7 percent of patients at paper-based practices. And almost 44 percent of patients in EMR-based practices met at least four of five outcome standardscompared to just 16 percent of patients at paper-based practices.


According to the study, these findings were consistent regardless of insurance type (Medicare, Medicaid and commercial payers) as well as for the uninsured.


David Blumenthal, MD, former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, says these results support the expectation that federal support of EMRs will generate quality-related returns on investment (ROI).


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