emr health_costsA new study from the University of Michigan, which examined more than 4 years of healthcare cost data in nine communities, revealed that the use of electronic health records can reduce outpatient care costs by almost 3%. The study compared the health care costs of 179,000 patients in three Massachusetts communities that largely adopted electronic health records with six control communities that have not. The outpatient care examined in this study included doctor visit costs and subsequent services ordered, such as laboratory.

The University of Michigan report notes that the findings support the prevailing assumption that computerizing medical histories can lead to lower health care costs. The Brockton, Newburyport, and North Adams communities that computerized their records did so in approximately the middle of the study period of 2005-2009. The researchers calculated health care expenses per patient per month, which reportedly amounted to 4.8 million data points.

The researchers also broke down the data by hospital care and outpatient care and further examined outpatient costs for radiology, lab, and prescriptions. The results reflect savings when the scope was specifically narrowed to outpatient care. The research team estimates $5.14 in savings per patient per month in the communities with electronic health records relative to those without the records, according to the University of Michigan news release.

Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, states, “This study helps clarify whether there are cost savings and what the magnitude of those are in the near-term” when using electronic health records. Adler-Milstein adds, “We found 3 percent savings and while that might not sound huge, if it could be sustained or even increased, it would be a substantial amount,” and that adopting electronic health records can help slow down rising health care costs.

Source: University of Michigan