Electronic records and better patient care?

By Sheryl Kay • Published: February 8th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Your doctor walks in, computer tablet in hand, and you wonder, “Does this technology really make things better?”

It may be a bit unsettling at first, but there should be some solace in knowing not only does electronic record-keeping help your doctor stay more organized, but evidence now shows that in the long run, you’ll be healthier as well.

Previous investigations yielded mixed results, but in a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, there was clear proof that doctors enhanced the quality of their care when they used electronic records.

Working with the Health Information Technology Evaluation Collaborative in New York, researchers analyzed data supplied from nearly 500 doctors and their 75,000 patients regarding the quality of patient care. That information was then compared with the method the doctors used for record-keeping.

The results showed that 56 percent of physicians who used commercially available technical solutions provided considerably superior quality of care than doctors using paper records. Although the study did not address the specific ways in which technology ultimately leads to better patient care, the investigators suggested several possibilities. For example, doctors may have enhanced medical decision-making capabilities due to the real time nature of computers. Also, email and other online methods allow patients and providers to communicate regularly, which could give health care a boost.

If your doctor has yet to switch over to automated record-keeping, don’t feel too left out. More than likely electronic methods are on the way to your doctor’s office. The U.S. government has invested up to $29 billion dollars in incentives for medical offices that make use of these systems. Sooner or later, that PC will make its way into your examining room, too.