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e-Records keep patients healthier, says study

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Electronic health records can help doctors give their patients the best care, at least when it comes to diabetes, U.S. researchers reported. The findings are a boost to the Obama administration’s electronic health-records program, which offers doctors and hospitals financial incentives if they set up electronic health records. The program will start penalizing providers in 2015 by cutting Medicare reimbursement by 1 percent if they don’t use an electronic medical record. Randall Cebul, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University, and colleagues found that more than half of diabetes patients got the best care as measured by four standards if their providers used electronic health records. This compares to just 7 percent of patients whose providers used old-fashioned paper, they reported in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine. The Cleveland-based study examined more than 27,000 adults with diabetes treated at 46 different practices from July 2009 through June 2010. Cebul and colleagues found 51 percent of patients treated at practices with electronic health records had received all four standards of good care for treating diabetes, like getting an eye examination to screen for diabetes-related conditions. Practices with electronic health records ultimately had healthier patients than those at paper-based clinics, with 44 percent of patients meeting four of five health goals, like keeping a patient’s weight at desired levels. Just fewer than 16 percent of paper-based clinics achieved the same results.

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