Study finds EMR to reduce number of clinical tests ordered

In March, a study published in the Journal of Health Affairs that analyzed nearly 30,000 patient visits to 1,187 office-based physicians suggested that doctors actively engaged with healthcare IT practices order 40 to 70 percent more tests than physicians that do not.

However, another study just recently published entitled "Bridging the Chasm: Effect of Health Information Exchange on Volume of Laboratory Testing," found that doctors utilizing electronic medical records software actually ordered fewer tests.

The second study analyzed a population of 117,606 outpatients who were checked in at Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General – two Boston-based hospitals that are part of the Partners Healthcare Information Exchange (HIE) between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2004.

As one of the study's researchers, Dr. Alexander Turchin of Harvard Medical School, told Reuters Health, after the facilities rolled out their HIE in the midst of the study, the number of clinical tests ordered per patient was only four. Before the medical practitioners had full pictures of patients' clinical history prior to the HIE formation though, the number of tests per patient was seven.

Turchin explained to Reuters that the discrepancy between the two studies may stem from the fact that the Health Affairs design factored in image testing, which are more susceptible to reorders.

Nonetheless, after analyzing the results of Turchin and his colleagues' study, it appears that EMR may allow physicians to cut down on the number of tests needed to successfully provide quality patient care, saving the facility money, increasing the time of treatment and freeing up more of the doctor's time to pursue other endeavors.

In order to integrate EMR into a medical facility's infrastructure, it would be wise for facility managers to partner with a medical technology consulting group that can provide product implementation and staff training.

Microwize Technology is a leading healthcare IT consultant offering products such as electronic medical records software and medical billing software from top providers like Allscripts and McKesson, including McKesson's Medisoft, Lytec and Practice Choice products.