Electronic Health Record Adoption and Quality Improvement in US Hospitals

Published in: The American Journal of Managed Care, v. 16, spec. no. 12, Dec. 2010, p. SP64-SP71

Posted on RAND.org on November 30, 2010

by Spencer S. Jones, John L. Adams, Eric C. Schneider, Jeanne S. Ringel, Elizabeth A. McGlynn

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OBJECTIVE: To estimate the relationship between quality improvement and electronic health record (EHR) adoption in US hospitals. STUDY DESIGN: National cohort study based on primary survey data about hospital EHR capability collected in 2003 and 2006 and on publicly reported hospital quality data for 2004 and 2007. METHODS: Difference-in-differences regression analysis to assess the relationship between EHR adoption and quality improvement for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia care. RESULTS: Availability of a basic EHR was associated with a significant increase in quality improvement for heart failure (additional improvement, 2.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0%-4.1%). However, adoption of advanced EHR capabilities was associated with significant decreases in quality improvement for acute myocardial infarction and heart failure. We observed 0.9% (95% CI, -1.7% to -0.1%) less improvement for acute myocardial infarction quality scores and 3.0% (95% CI, -5.2% to -0.8%) less improvement for heart failure quality scores among hospitals that newly adopted an advanced EHR, and 1.2% (95% CI, -2.0% to -0.3%) less improvement for acute myocardial infarction quality scores and 2.8% (95% CI, -5.4% to -0.3%) less improvement for heart failure quality scores among hospitals that upgraded their basic EHR. CONCLUSIONS: Mixed results suggest that current practices for implementation and use of EHRs have had a limited effect on quality improvement in US hospitals. However, potential "ceiling effects" limit the ability of existing measures to assess the effect that EHRs have had on hospital quality. In addition to the development of standard criteria for EHR functionality and use, standard measures of the effect of EHRs on quality are needed.

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