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EHR, electronic health records, were positioned as being a major tool for helping reduce health care costs and optimize the entire health system.
Have EHRs worked? Right now, the answer still depends on who you talk with.
First, let’s look at the evidence that EHRs have not lived up to the hype. For example, Robert S. Kaplan, Professor at Harvard Business School , said that “the theory was that part of having electronic records was to lower the cost. We didn’t find much evidence for that.”
Research by Duke University Medical Center found in 2017 that for health care facilities using EHRs just generating a bill for work performed could cost anywhere from $20 to $215. Kevin Schulman, professor of medicine at the Duke Clinical Research Institute, said that “we found no evidence that adoption of these expensive electronic health record systems reduced billing costs related to physician services.”
Other evidence suggests that EHRs have been useful and contribute to cost efficiencies. For example, a study by Case Western Reserve University found that hospitals that have implemented EHRs are able to discharge patients more quickly. The study found that the average hospital stay was reduced by 3 percent and that patients with more complex conditions, the reduction was .5 percent higher.
3 percent savings does seem small, but Manoj Malhotra, co-author of the study, said that “any efficiencies, even small improvements, can produce significant savings when adopted in a large healthcare system and are certainly preferable to the alternative.”