Doctors order fewer lab tests when they have access to a patient’s electronic medical records, according to a new study, but the efficiency may be confined to state-of-the-art records exchanges for now.
The new study is based on the experience of two hospitals — Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General — that form Partners HealthCare, a not-for-profit healthcare system in Boston. The findings are at odds with another recent study.
In the year 2000, the two hospitals established a health information exchange to access each others’ electronic medical records.
“We found that the number of lab tests went down after the introduction if there were recent lab tests available,” said Dr. Alexander Turchin, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor of medi-cine at the Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Turchin and his colleagues looked at 117,606 people who were outpatients at one of the hospitals be-tween January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2004.
Of those, 346 had recent tests done at the other hospital — 44 patients had them done before the infor-mation exchange was rolled out. As for those who did not have recent test results available, 21,968 were at one of the hospitals before the exchange.