Reuters Health writes: Hospitals that switch from paper to electronic health records may eventually see lower death rates than they had before, but a U.S. study also suggests that fatalities may first increase as the transition gets underway. Researchers examined the degree of digitization and 30-day death rates for patients age 65 and older at 3,249 hospitals nationwide from 2008 to 2013.
While the study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how converting to electronic health records (EHR) directly impacts hospital death rates, the study team speculates that the larger and academic hospitals had ongoing quality improvement efforts that left less room to show mortality benefits when they went digital. For smaller community hospitals, however, adopting electronic health records might have made a bigger difference in improving the quality of care. In contrast, for smaller and non-teaching hospitals, EHR adoption may have represented a large, highly visible quality improvement initiative that also prompted broader quality efforts.