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The American Journal of Managed Care October 2018
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Putting the Pieces Together: EHR Communication and Diabetes Patient Outcomes
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Putting the Pieces Together: EHR Communication and Diabetes Patient Outcomes

Marlon P. Mundt, PhD, and Larissa I. Zakletskaia, MA
More frequent electronic health record (EHR) message forwarding in primary care teams is associated with worse outcomes and higher medical costs for patients with diabetes.
ABSTRACT

Objectives: This study seeks to determine how changes in electronic health record (EHR) communication patterns in primary care teams relate to quality of care and costs for patients with diabetes.

Study Design: EHR-extracted longitudinal observational study.

Methods: A total of 83 health professionals in 19 care teams at 4 primary care clinics associated with a large Midwestern university participated in the study. Counts of messages routed between any 2 team members in the EHR in the past 18 months were extracted. Flow-betweenness, defined as the proportion of information passed indirectly within the team, was calculated. The analysis related changes in team flow-betweenness to changes in emergency department visits, hospital stays, and associated medical costs for the teams’ patients with diabetes, while adjusting for team face-to-face communication, patient-level covariates, comorbidities, team size, and clinic fixed effects.

Results: Patient hospital visits increased by 13% (standard error [SE] = 6%) for every increase of 1 percentage point in team EHR message forwarding (ie, higher team flow-betweenness). Medical costs increased by $223 (SE = $105) per patient with diabetes in the past 6 months for every increase of 1 percentage point in team flow-betweenness.

Conclusions: Primary care teams whose EHR communication reached more team members indirectly (ie, via message forwarding) had worse outcomes and higher medical costs for their patients with diabetes. EHR team communication flow patterns may be an important avenue to explore in raising quality of care and lowering costs for patients with diabetes in primary care.

Am J Manag Care. 2018;24(10):462-468

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