A Case for Electronic Health Records

Study finds benefits for patients, reduced costs

The meaningful integration of electronic health records (EHRs) into hospital care is leading to shorter stays and lowering healthcare costs without sacrificing the quality of treatment, according to a recent study co-authored by the dean of the Weatherhead School of Management.

Debate has swirled around the value of EHRs. At the most basic level, do they improve health care systems or make patient care more difficult and frustrating? Or is it some combination of both?

According to the study, co-authored by Dean Manoj Malhotra, PhD, hospitals that have fully incorporated EHRs into their processes have averaged a 3% decrease in the length of the average patient hospital stay. The study was published in 2018 in the Journal of Operations Management.

Malhotra and Deepa Wani, PhD, an assistant professor of management science and statistics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, studied patient information during a four-year period from all acute-care focused hospitals in California.

The researchers grouped hospitals in three categories—partial-EHR adopters, full-EHR adopters and EHR assimilators. While both full adopters and assimilators bought the necessary EHR technologies, only the assimilators achieved "meaningful" integration as defined by the federal law providing financial incentives for hospital-wide, standardized use.

Hospitals in that third group are taking full advantage and accessing a wide range of EHR features to administer care more effectively and manage treatments with other providers more efficiently, the researchers found.

"Doctors can coordinate across multiple teams," said Malhotra, who also is the Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Management. "That's important because most of us don't come in with one condition alone."

The researchers also discovered that readmission rates didn't increase with shorter stays. Hospitals reporting meaningful use of EHRs reduced readmission rates by about 6.5%, on average.

—Jon Katz