After all the hype we've heard in recent years about electronic medical records increasing efficiency and quality of care, I bet those pushing for electronic records weren't happy to see the results of a new Stanford University study that were released this week.
According to Reuters, the study revealed that the use of electronic records systems-even those that included "decision support" software for treatment tips-did not necessarily improve quality of care.
Dr. Randall Stafford, who led the study of data from more than 250,000 visits to doctors' offices and other outpatient sites between 2005 and 2007, said:
Across a wide range of quality indicators there was no consistent association between having those electronic tools available and providing better quality of care.
Other studies have reportedly found that decision support tools do improve quality of care, but Stafford indicated such an improvement would take more than new information technology. He encourages physicians, hospitals and regulators alike to be more realistic about their expectations of health care IT.
InformationWeek's Anthony Guerra is also urging people to be more realistic about their expectations for health care IT. Specifically, he points to regulators and others responsible for developing and enforcing the meaningful use requirements that must be met before incentive funds are handed out.
As far as I see it, meaningful use is a brakeless train heading for a solid mountain. Some, to be sure, will jump before impact, abandoning the program rather than continuing to throw good money after that spent on a project which will not qualify for reimbursement. Far worse, others will continue to shovel coal into the rickety engine of their organization, pushing the train beyond capacity and hurting patients in an attempt to qualify for monies, ironically, set aside to help them.
Hopefully, the situation is not as bleak as Guerra makes it out to be, but if Stafford's study is accurate rather than an anomaly, health care providers have a long road ahead.