Expert Michael Furukawa Who would like to spend long hours in the hospital emergency room? The following article suggests electronic records to decline long waiting hours. A latest study initiated by the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University asserts that advanced type of electronic medical records can save 22.4 percent time spent in the E.R. than other hospitals.

For conducting the study, data from the 2006 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey was analyzed. This nationally representative survey comprised records from more than 30,000 patient visits to 364 hospitals across the United States. In the process of the investigation, three categories were created by the authors.

The first group encompassed data of hospital emergency rooms with little or no electronic medical records. On the other hand, the second category included information about those with only basic electronic medical records and no more advanced functions like online access to certain test results. The last category had data on emergency rooms with the best, fully functional type of electronic medical record systems.

Michael Furukawa, assistant professor and the lead author of the study quoted, “The good news is that if you choose a hospital with the best type of fully functional electronic medical records, you will probably have a shorter treatment time and a much shorter overall stay in the emergency room. However, I also found that if your hospital has just a basic electronic medical records system, efficiency could actually be worse than at emergency rooms with no electronic medical records at all.”

It was observed that hospital emergency rooms with the best electronic medical records had 13.1-percent shorter treatment times. While E.R. for patients eventually admitted to the hospital had 23.5-percent shorter stays, E.R. for patients treated and discharged without being admitted had 21.3-percent shorter stays. On an average, basic electronic medical records were possibly linked to longer wait times.

Furukawa highlighted, “Partial electronic medical records are not optimal. Don’t expect to go halfway to achieve the same efficiency and benefits. As the government is announcing its standards for health IT, this should be kept in mind.”

It is claimed that federal stimulus money which is being utilized for health IT efforts also comprises electronic medical records. These records are apparently more than the benefits for the patients. Electronic medical records seem to not only decline cost and promote efficiency, but also improve patient safety and care. Hospital emergency rooms with only basic electronic medical records were probably unable to perform very well in certain areas.

Furukawa commented, “Surprisingly, basic electronic medical records were associated with longer wait times on average, especially for patients arriving at the E.R. with truly urgent medical needs. Therefore, the sophistication of health IT systems is important. Some hospitals may just plan to do the minimum necessary to get federal funding, and that may have unintended, negative consequences.”

Patients specifically dealing with urgent or semi-urgent medical issues may have been subjected to a 47.3-percent longer wait time. Investigators believe that efficiency may improve over time as hospital staffers and others become more familiar with the basic systems. Benefits can seemingly vary depending on the number and type of functions used by hospitals.

The study was published by the journal Medical Care Research and Review.