Advanced EHRs cut inpatient costs, study says. Next we need analysis of cost + quality.

Most of the news we’ve seen on the topic of costs associated with EHRs relates to financial losses for hospitals, not cost savings. So a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care showing per patient savings of nearly 10% caught our eye.

The study (Association of Electronic Health Records With Cost Savings in a National Sample) looked at 5 million inpatient records at 550 acute care hospitals. The authors found savings per adult patient admission of $731, or 9.6%, in the 19% of hospitals using “advanced EHRs” (“consistent with the first requirements of Meaningful Use”). The study, conducted in 2009, concluded that patients, third party payers and hospitals could benefit from these lower costs.

In an interview in HealthLeaders, co-author Abby Kazley provided additional insight, including that similar studies on pediatric populations failed to show improvements. Work remains to truly assess the impact of EHRs and make the right adjustments to leverage the investment made.  When asked “what’s next” she said:

We need to continue to look at the cost and the quality of the care associated with EHRs and we need to look at individual organizations and do system evaluations to see how well the EHRs themselves are working.

We applaud the use of EHRs and are happy to see these cost savings documented. Our mission at QPID Health is to see that hospitals achieve further cost savings while providing the best care possible – by activating the clinical intelligence that EHRs contain.

With the US continuing to outspend other industrialized nations by a long shot (17.6% of GDP versus 9.2%, or $8,745 versus $3,355 per the Commonwealth Fund) but failing to achieve better outcomes, we are headed in the right direction but have a long way to go.