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Electronic Medical Records' Benefits Still to Be Seen

Most systems not yet fully implemented, survey finds

THURSDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- Although politicians and health officials have touted the use of electronic medical records as a major advance over the old paper file system, a new study suggests that existing electronic systems haven't significantly boosted patient life spans or lowered costs.

"We are still in the early days of electronic health record adoption, and there's little evidence for how best to implement the technology to make the greatest gains," study lead author Dr. Catherine DesRoches, of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in a news release.

"Hospitals may not see the benefit of these systems until they are fully implemented, or it may take many years for benefits to become apparent," she noted.

The study, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, analyzed the effects of the use of the electronic systems by analyzing results of a 2008 national survey of acute care hospitals. Almost 3,000 hospitals responded.

"Our findings suggest that hospitals need to pay special attention to how they implement these systems. Simply having the technology available is probably not going to be enough," DesRoches said. "Hospitals will need to effectively integrate new systems into their current practices. Studying institutions that have been successful will provide important lessons for everyone."

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has details on personal medical records.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, April 6, 2010

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