WEDNESDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that using electronic medical records instead of paper files could greatly improve care for diabetic patients by boosting communication.
Diabetic patients "did better and improved faster" at various kinds of medical clinics that had switched to e-records, said study author Dr. Randall D. Cebul, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "The differences were rather remarkable."
However, there are caveats to the study. The research doesn't prove that electronic records directly improved patient care; other factors could explain the difference. And it can be costly for clinics to convert to electronic records, although many may be able to get financial incentives from the federal government.
Cebul said the findings are strong. He acknowledged, however, that clinics often failed to fully follow guidelines about care for diabetics, even when they used electronic records.
Converting to electronic records may seem like a slam dunk when it comes to patient care. Proponents say they make it easier for doctors to communicate with patients and with one another. The records are also supposed to cut down on medical errors by doing things like providing warnings about medication allergies.
The Obama Administration is so confident that a move to e-records will improve care and cut costs that it made the shift a key part of health care reform efforts. Still, doctors seem slow to adopt the technology: A HealthDay/Harris Interactive poll conducted a year ago found that fewer than 1 in 10 adults used email to communicate with their physician.
And researchers have had trouble confirming that electronic records actually boost medical care. "In a lot of studies, there hasn't been enough change that they can say it's improved things," noted Richard Hillestad, a senior principal researcher
All rights reserved