RAND Corporation Logo Previously an article suggested that electronic health records can provide better quality in primary care treatment. Well if this piece of information is to be believed then, it is not always true. A groundbreaking study undertaken by the RAND Corporation asserts that employment of electronic health records by hospitals has only a limited effect on boosting the quality of medical care.

Hospitals with basic electronic health records probably have a dramatic impact on elevation in quality of care for heart failure patients. However similar benefits did not appear among patients treated for heart attack or pneumonia and in hospitals that upgraded to advanced electronic health records. It was suggested that inclusion of novel methods for gauging the impact of health information technology on the quality of hospital care can be introduced. In order to understand the benefits of electronic health records, scientists scrutinized 2,021 hospitals.

Spencer S. Jones, the study’s lead author and an information scientist at RAND, commented, “The lurking question has been whether we are examining the right measures to truly test the effectiveness of health information technology. Our existing tools are probably not the ones we need going forward to adequately track the nation’s investment in health information technology.”

Having evaluated whether each hospital had electronic health records, experts then analyzed performance across 17 measures of quality for three common illnesses, heart failure, heart attack and pneumonia. Usage of a basic or advanced electronic health record apparently rose from 24 percent in 2003 to nearly 38 percent by 2006. Quality of care provided for the three illnesses supposedly enhanced among all types of hospitals studied from 2004 to 2007. The largest increase in quality was witnessed by the authors in patients treated for heart failure at hospitals that maintained basic electronic health records throughout the study period.

Quality scores seemingly boosted no faster at hospitals that had newly adopted a basic electronic health record than in hospitals that did not adopt the technology. Hospitals with newly adopted advanced electronic health records reported significantly less improved quality scores for heart attack and heart failure than at hospitals that did not have electronic health records. It was concluded that electronic health records may have no impact on the quality of care for pneumonia patients.

The study was published online by the American Journal of Managed Care.