KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

E-Health Records Don’t Always Equal Reduced Costs

A study published in Health Affairs found that electronic health records don't necessary lead to reducing health care spending or fewer diagnostic tests.

Kaiser Health News: Study: E-Health Records Don't Deter Testing, Spending
Electronic health records have long been touted by Democrats and Republicans alike as a sure-fire way to lower health spending. When doctors have easy electronic access to a patient's records, advocates argue, they are less likely to order the duplicative and unnecessary tests that drive up the cost of health care in America (Gold, 3/5).

Boston Globe: Doctors May Order More -- Not Fewer -- Imaging Tests With Electronic Access To Results, Study Finds
Electronic health records may not be as effective as expected at reducing the number of costly and unnecessary tests doctors order for their patients, a study published Monday in Health Affairs found. Among a national sampling of more than 1,100 doctors surveyed in 2008, those who had electronic access to results of imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs ordered more tests, not fewer. Experts have long thought that electronic health records would save money by preventing duplicate tests through better tracking of patient care, and by providing doctors with tools to decide who would benefit from certain tests (Conaboy, 3/6).

NewsHour: New Study Challenges Whether Electronic Records Cut Health Costs
The study, which was done by Cambridge Health Alliance's Danny McCormick and David Bor and CUNY School of Public Health's Stephanie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, found that office-based doctors were more likely to order an imaging test if they had access to EHRs. The authors studied records of more than 28,700 patient visits to nearly 1,200 doctors. Physicians who could look at EHRs ordered imaging 18 percent of the time, compared to about 13 percent of the time with doctors who couldn't use EHRs (Fleischer and Jacobson, 3/5).

CNN: Could Electronic Medical Records Add Costs?
"It's a somewhat surprising finding," said Dr. Danny McCormick, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and study co-author. "Health IT is often put forward as a major solution to the cost crisis affecting the health care system. If it actually is not likely to decrease costs, we probably ought to know about that early on." McCormick and colleagues analyzed data from the 2008 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which included 28,741 patient visits presided over by 1,187 physicians (Smith, 3/5).

Politico Pro: Study: Doctors With Electronic Access Ordered More Tests
The findings run counter to a widespread presumption that computerized access to medical tests — such as blood work results and imaging diagnostics — would reduce unnecessary duplication of tests and, consequently, health care costs. Studies have found that some tests have been reduced at "a few flagship hospitals with cutting-edge academic computing groups" that provide extensive information on test results, their costs and their clinical usefulness, the study authors note (Norman, 3/5).

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