Switching EHRs has no impact on patient safety or mortality rates, Harvard researchers say

Despite what appear to be common industry fears about new electronic health records having adverse effects on care delivery, Harvard’s School of Public Health officials said recent research should be encouraging to doctors.
By Bernie Monegain
11:09 AM
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A Harvard study found that switching to a new electronic health record platform has no effect on patient safety or mortality rates.

"Physicians' tremendous frustration in switching to new electronic health records can spill over into concerns that patient care is actually worse because of these systems," said Harvard assistant professor Michael Barnett, who led the study. "Happily, our results suggest that switching to a new system is a challenge that hospitals are prepared to handle safely."

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in fact, considered the short-term impact of implementing EHR systems nationally, and identified 17 hospitals that went live in one day. 

[Also: Are EHR vendors poised to extinguish public HIEs?]

The team studied the short term association of EHR implementation with 30 day mortality and readmission rates as well as safety events.

Using Medicare data from 2010 to 2012, they compared patient outcomes before and after EHR implementation to the same trends in other nearby hospitals.

Harvard researchers found no difference in the rates of inpatient mortality, adverse safety events and readmissions in hospitals implementing EHR systems before and after going live, compared to the control group.

Also, they found no change when examining groups of patients and hospitals that might have been at higher risk for problems, such as sicker patients or hospitals who transitioned from paper to electronic charts, versus those just switching from one electronic system to another.

The results should be encouraging to doctors, practices and hospitals planning their own implementations, the researchers stated in their report.

"Having recently witnessed firsthand how disruptive an EHR implementation can be, it is reassuring to know that hospital safeguards prevent patients from being harmed," added Anupam Jena, senior author of the study and the Ruth L. Newhouse associate professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

Twitter: @Bernie_HITN
Email the writer: bernie.monegain@himssmedia.com


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