Study Questions Impact of Electronic Medical Records

The study, published in Health Affairs, analyzed results from 27 trials that evaluated the influence of health information exchange (HIE) on efficiency, costs, and patient outcomes. The study does not undermine the impact of HIE; rather it challenges users to improve the efficiency of the system.

Health information exchange (HIE), which is the transfer of electronic information such as laboratory results, clinical summaries, and medication lists, is believed to boost efficiency, reduce healthcare costs, and improve outcomes for patients. Stimulated by federal financial incentives, about two-thirds of hospitals and almost half of physician practices are now engaged in some type of HIE with outside organizations. To determine how HIE has affected such healthcare measures as cost, service use, and quality, we identified 27 scientific studies, extracted selected characteristics from each, and meta-analyzed these characteristics for trends. Overall, 57% of published analyses reported some benefit from HIE. However, articles employing study designs having strong internal validity, such as randomized controlled trials or quasi-experiments, were significantly less likely than others to associate HIE with benefits.

Link to the article in Health Affairs: