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Electronic health records slow the rise of healthcare costs
Date:7/21/2013

ANN ARBOR Use of electronic health records can reduce the costs of outpatient care by roughly 3 percent, compared to relying on traditional paper records.

That's according to a new study from the University of Michigan that examined more than four years of healthcare cost data in nine communities. The "outpatient care" category in the study included the costs of doctor's visits as well as services typically ordered during those visits in laboratory, pharmacy and radiology.

The study is groundbreaking in its breadth. It compares the healthcare costs of 179,000 patients in three Massachusetts communities that widely adopted electronic health records and six control communities that did not. The findings support the prevailing but sometimes criticized assumption that computerizing medical histories can lead to lower healthcare expenses.

"To me, this is good news," said Julia Adler-Milstein, an assistant professor in the U-M School of Information and School of Public Health who led the study. "We found 3 percent savings and while that might not sound huge, if it could be sustained or even increased, it would be a substantial amount.

"That said, when we talk about cost savings, it does not mean that the costs went down, but that the costs did not go up as quickly in the intervention communities. This suggests that adopting electronic records helped slow the rise in healthcare costs."

The communities that computerized their records Brockton, Newburyport and North Adams did so in approximately the middle of the study period of 2005-2009. All the communities, including the controls, had applied to be part of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative's pilot that gave funding and support for entire cities' worth of doctors' offices to convert their records. To maximize the benefit from computerized records, experts believe it's important that the shift occurs throughout entire communities, rather than piecemeal. This real-
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Contact: Nicole Casal Moore
ncmoore@umich.edu
734-647-7087
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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