Could electronic medical records add costs?
March 5th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Could electronic medical records add costs?

Electronic streamlining of medical records has been touted as a way to save money, against the backdrop of a health care system that is characterized as wasteful. Electronic medical records (or "Health IT") are supposed to save billions of dollars by eliminating duplicate or unnecessary testing.

But a new study is saying just the opposite: Health IT may actually add cost to health care instead of curbing it.

In fact, the study, just published in the journal Health Affairs, suggests that doctors who had electronic access to patient data were between 40-70% more likely to order tests.

"It's a somewhat surprising finding," said Dr. Danny McCormick, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and study co-author. "Health IT is often put forward as a major solution to the cost crisis affecting the health care system. If it actually is not likely to decrease costs, we probably ought to know about that early on."

McCormick and colleagues analyzed data from the 2008 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which included 28,741 patient visits presided over by 1,187 physicians.

To be included in the analysis, physicians needed the ability to order and receive patient radiological and lab tests electronically; and they had to be able to get back results of tests visually - meaning, if they ordered a CT scan of the abdomen, they could get back an image of that scan on their computer.

The theory behind corralling a patient's medical records electronically – and being able to access previous data – is that it would, among other things, obviate unnecessary tests.

But just the opposite happened in this study.

Physicians who had electronic access ordered tests during 18% of visits, compared with physicians without access, who ordered 12.9% of the time.

"What we think is may be going on is that like in a lot of spheres of human behavior, if you make something easy to do, people will do it more," said McCormick. "We saw a strong association between having the capacity to view an image and ordering more tests."

One reason for the disconnect between this study's findings and those suggesting billions in savings, according to McCormick, is that those studies are based on successfully implemented electronic records systems at large health systems, such as Kaiser Permanente and the Mayo Clinic.

But there are real-world considerations that don't translate the same way they do at those big institutions, according to McCormick.

First, smaller practices may not be using technology as sophisticated as larger health systems. Another theory is that simply ordering up another test might be perceived as easier than taking time to review previous test results.

"The effect may be to provide subtle encouragement to physicians to order more imaging studies," according to the study.

A previous analysis by Harvard researchers, published in 2009 in the American Journal of Medicine, similarly suggests that, in general, hospital computing systems have not reduced overall costs.

This most recent survey was not designed to answer more sophisticated questions, like whether the patient actually needed the test. Or whether doctors who are savvy enough to install electronic medical records systems at their practices might also be more inclined toward ordering tests in borderline cases.

To be sure, more study is needed. And that is the point, according to McCormick.

"It really should give caution to those making the claim that Health IT is going to make a substantial dent in the cost crisis facing the health care system," said McCormick.

soundoff (554 Responses)
  1. RV Maintenance California


    April 25, 2021 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. house for sale around me

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be useful to read content from other writers and practice a little something from other websites.


    April 27, 2021 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. houses for sale around my location

    I love looking through a post that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!


    April 27, 2021 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. freedom vans

    The next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won't disappoint me just as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, but I truly thought you'd have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something you can fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention.


    May 4, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. how to play on private aika server


    May 4, 2021 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. truck exhaust


    May 5, 2021 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. how to play on private aika server


    May 5, 2021 at 03:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. aika online private servers

    This is a topic that is near to my heart... Cheers! Where are your contact details though?


    May 5, 2021 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. anxiety group near me


    May 5, 2021 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Windows Orange County


    May 5, 2021 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Paint Shop Orange County


    May 5, 2021 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. life group

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was doing a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me lunch because I discovered it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your web page.


    May 6, 2021 at 06:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. online life coach


    May 6, 2021 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. home goods near me


    May 6, 2021 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. used car dealerships near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. rv slide out water damage repair


    May 6, 2021 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Forklift For Sale California

    Hello! I just wish to give you a huge thumbs up for the great info you have got right here on this post. I'll be returning to your website for more soon.


    May 6, 2021 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Beer Company Near Me


    May 6, 2021 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Forklift Service


    May 6, 2021 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Forklift Tires Los Angeles


    May 6, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. rv repair and service near me


    May 7, 2021 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Used Forklift Rental California


    May 7, 2021 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Bock Beer Near Me

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Very well written!


    May 7, 2021 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. uFjmOWYdHtgr


    May 7, 2021 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Forklift Repair Los Angeles


    May 7, 2021 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. red lobster near me

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing this info.


    May 7, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. New Forklift Service California


    May 7, 2021 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. rv repair chino

    I seriously love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you make this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my very own website and would like to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Thanks!


    May 7, 2021 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Google Marketing Consultant

    Hi! I simply wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for the great info you have right here on this post. I am returning to your web site for more soon.


    May 7, 2021 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Content Marketing Programs


    May 8, 2021 at 02:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Internet Marketing Consultant

    There's certainly a lot to learn about this issue. I really like all of the points you've made.


    May 8, 2021 at 02:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Content Marketing Quote


    May 8, 2021 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Social Media Marketing Programs

    I blog frequently and I really appreciate your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I will book mark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week. I opted in for your RSS feed as well.


    May 8, 2021 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Content Marketing Programs

    Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    May 8, 2021 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Content Marketing Ideas


    May 8, 2021 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Internet Marketing Services


    May 8, 2021 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Content Marketing Consultants

    Everything is very open with a precise clarification of the challenges. It was really informative. Your website is very helpful. Thank you for sharing!


    May 8, 2021 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Google Marketing Agencies

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes which will make the most significant changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 9, 2021 at 03:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Digital Marketing Orange County

    I like it when folks get together and share thoughts. Great website, stick with it!


    May 9, 2021 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Seo Marketing Company

    Hi! I simply wish to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have right here on this post. I am returning to your site for more soon.


    May 9, 2021 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Internet Marketing Near Me

    That is a very good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    May 9, 2021 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Content Marketing Agency


    May 9, 2021 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Upgrades Orange County

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly written!


    May 9, 2021 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Internet Marketing Specialist

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it won't disappoint me just as much as this particular one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, nonetheless I really believed you would have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could possibly fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.


    May 9, 2021 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Social Media Marketing Mentors


    May 9, 2021 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. RV Dent Repair California

    I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I stumbled across this during my hunt for something concerning this.


    May 9, 2021 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Video Marketing Consultants


    May 10, 2021 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Social Media Marketing Firm

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me dinner due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this topic here on your web site.


    May 10, 2021 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Seo Marketing Agencies

    This is a topic that is close to my heart... Cheers! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    May 10, 2021 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Internet Marketing Store


    May 10, 2021 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.