In the new study, researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 27,000 adults who received care for diabetes at clinics in the Cleveland area. They wanted to see if there was any difference between results at clinics that had adopted electronic records and those that hadn't.
The study findings appear in the Sept. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
After adjusting their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by factors such as differences in medical conditions among patients, the researchers found that people who visited clinics with electronic records were more than a third more likely to have received care that met all four clinical benchmarks. The benchmarks require that patients undergo eye examinations, pneumococcal vaccinations, kidney management and measurement of glycated hemoglobin (also known as HbA1c, a means of tracking blood sugar control).
Patients at clinics with electronic records were also 15 percent more likely to meet all five benchmarks for their personal health, including specific ranges for blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
However, it's possible that the clinics with paper records simply provided worse care in general -- their decision to not move to electronic records could be a sign that they're behind the times in other ways. But Celub said the evidence suggests that is not the case.
He acknowledged that the study does not use the prospective approach that's considered the gold standard in medical research. Instead, it looked back at what happened to the patients instead of randomly assigning clinics to use electronic or paper records and then tracking their progress. "It's not a randomized controlled trial," he said, "but that will never happen."
Why? Because physicians won't want to be stuck with paper records. "How many doctors would like to be randomly assigned to stay i
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