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EHR use tied to more women's health tests: study


By Beth Kutscher
Posted: February 20, 2013 - 1:45 pm ET
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Primary-care providers who use electronic health records are more likely to order routine women's health tests than those without the systems, according to a study.

The report in the Journal of the Medical Informatics Association is the latest to show that electronic systems increase healthcare utilization. And it found that the more sophisticated the EHR system, the more likely a clinician was to order screening tests such as breast and pelvic examinations, Pap smears, cholesterol tests, mammograms and bone mineral density tests, among others.

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Using responses from the 2007-08 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, researchers from the University of Cincinnati found that about half of providers (49.34%) had minimal EHR capabilities and another 29.23% had no EHR system.

Only 5.46% of providers had what the study authors described as fully functional EMR capabilities. Yet those providers were more than twice as likely to perform breast examinations, for example, than clinicians without an EMR system (44.98% vs. 20.27%).

The researchers noted that the more functions an EMR system has, the greater the number of tests likely to be ordered.

As a result, the study concluded that having an EMR system has a positive effect on women's healthcare, and suggested that specialists should invest in sophisticated EMR systems.

The study isn't the first to draw a link between the availability of electronic tools and increased healthcare utilization. In March, a study in Health Affairs found that doctors with access to electronic test results were about 40% to 70% more likely to order additional lab and imaging tests.

And in November, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that even patients were more likely to call their doctors or schedule an office visit when they had online access to their medical records. But that study, which included patients at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado, struck a more cautious tone and said the findings should prompt discussion over how to allocate resources to deal with the increased demand for healthcare services.


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