A new study that is based on the results of two hospitals (Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s – which forms Partners HealthCare) has indicated that the use of EMR (electronic medical records) has resulted in physicians ordering fewer lab tests for their patients. This has come about when the doctors have access to the patient’s electronic medical records. This level of efficiency, however, seems to be limited to the use of state-of-the-art medical records exchanges – at least for the time being. Partners HealthCare is a non-profit Boston healthcare system. Back in the year 2000, it was decided that these two hospitals would have access to each others’ EMR systems.
The study looked at 117,606 individuals who were outpatients and one of the two hospitals between the dates 1/1/1999 and 12/31/2004. The conclusion was that 346 patients had tests done recently at the other hospital and 44 patients had already had the tests performed before this type of medical information system had been initiated. After the information exchange was initiated via EMR, the average number of test for each patient, that had prior tests, fell from approximately seven to about four. For those who did not have prior tests, the average fell from about six per patient to roughly five per patient.
For those patients who had not undergone prior tests, the amount slightly increased from about five tests to about six. If you compare the increase for patients who had not undergone tests, the total number of tests that had been ordered for patients with previous results, there was a decrease of 49% after the EMR exchange was initiated. When confounders were accounted for (sex, age, year and test numbers) – the tests that were ordered decreased by approximately 53%. However thee may be some discrepancy with research that had been done in the past.
The next step to be taken is a study of the actual potential savings hat result through the ordering of fewer medical tests. But in actuality, it’s been noted that the benefits will most likely go far beyond the money that would be saved. These benefits can include a sense of comfort for the patient. That sense of comfort can facilitate the healing process. With these types of exchanges resulting in fewer tests, there are fewer injections and blood draws. It has also been noted that it is certainly possible to decrease the number of medical test ordered nationwide once EMR has been initiated.