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Autumn 2016


health care policy

cabinet filled with folders of paper patient records

As waves of hospitals move from older methods of record keeping to new electronic health record (EHR) systems, many medical professionals express fears that implementing an EHR system in their hospital will have dire results, including more errors and higher patient mortality.

But these fears are largely unfounded, according to research published in the July 28 issue of The BMJ by researchers from HMS and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who studied a diverse group of U.S. hospitals that implemented new EHR systems in 2011 and 2012.

These researchers found that among patients treated at 17 U.S. hospitals launching an EHR system during the study period, there was no short-term increase in inpatient mortality, adverse safety events, or readmissions compared with data from a control group of nearly 400 hospitals within the same referral region. Each of the seventeen hospitals with a new EHR system had implemented it in a single day, making it possible for the researchers to analyze patient outcomes using Medicare data from before and after the “go live” days in each hospital and compare them with data from other hospitals.

The investigators also found no change when examining data from hospitals that might have been at higher risk for problems such as sicker patients or hospitals that transitioned from paper to electronic charts, versus those that simply switched from one electronic system to another.

“Having witnessed firsthand how disruptive an EHR implementation can be,” says Anupam Jena, senior author of the study and the Ruth L. Newhouse Associate Professor of Health Care Policy at HMS, “it is reassuring to know that hospital safeguards prevent patients from being harmed.”

Image: iStock

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