Nurses report EHRs improve care quality, health outcomes

January 11, 2012
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A new study finds that nurses working with electronic health records (EHRs) consistently reported more improvements to nursing care and better health outcomes for patients than nurses working in hospitals without this technology.

In their study of more than 16,000 nurses working at 316 hospitals in four states, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that implementation of an EHR may result in improved and more efficient nursing care, better care coordination and patient safety.

At the same time, “It is important to note that having a basic EHR was associated with better outcomes independently of nurse staffing, indicating that they both play an important role in quality of care,” wrote study authors Ann Kutney-Lee, PhD, RN and Deena Kelly, RN.

Nurses in hospitals with fully implemented basic EHRs were significantly less likely to report unfavorable patient safety issues, frequent medication errors and low quality of care. These findings suggest that the level of detail available in the EHR may allow for more comprehensive unit transfer reports and discharge summaries to outside healthcare providers, according to the study.

Recent estimates report that only 12 percent of U.S. hospitals have a basic EHR system in place, but that is likely to change under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Beginning in 2011 under HITECH, Medicare and Medicaid began to offer federal incentive payments of $2 million or more to healthcare providers and hospitals to use EHR technologies.

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