|The Health Record Review
by Jeff Rowe, Editor
Posted on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - 11:03 am
Sometimes it takes a study to deliver a message that, to put it mildly, we probably should have expected.
The latest case in point is a study conducted by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College which found that healthcare providers who switched to EHRs made better use of them after they’d received extensive technical training.
The report is behind a firewall on Health Affairs, but a snippet of the abstract pretty much sums it up:
“We evaluated the early effects on quality of the Primary Care Information Project, which provides subsidized EHRs and technical assistance to primary care practices in underserved neighborhoods in New York City, using the regional extension center model. We found that just general participation in, or exposure to, the project was not enough to improve quality of care. It took sustained exposure on the part of these practices and technical assistance to them before they demonstrated improvement on measures of care most likely to be affected by the use of electronic health records, such as cancer screenings and care for patients with diabetes.
“Participating in the Primary Care Information Project for nine or more months was associated with significantly improved quality, but only for this limited group of quality measures and only for physicians receiving extensive technical assistance.”
According to this article, Andrew Ryan, the paper’s lead author, pointed out that, for starters, there’s a big “cultural barrier” standing between providers and effective use of EHRs.
"You've got a cohort of physicians who are used to practicing in a certain way and have been doing that their whole careers," he said, going on to point out that providers may not be computer savvy, “and to achieve the full potential of EHRs, they have to change how they document visits, how they write prescriptions, and how they decide what type of treatment patients get.”
As we said, this isn’t exactly shocking news, but it does raise the question of whether current policies are mindful enough of the need for sustained training, or, by extension, whether the services provided by RECs are sufficient to train fully the providers they’re assisting.
It also reminds us of a point we made just a few days back. Real proof of the success of EHRs will come not with increasing numbers of providers adopting them, but of a demonstrable improvement in the quality of the care being delivered.
Photo courtesy of cliff1066 via Creative Commons.