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Putting patients' health records on computer systems instead of handwritten paper charts reduces medical complications, deaths and costs, according to a study of 41 Texas hospitals.

Putting patients' health records on computer systems instead of handwritten paper charts reduces medical complications, deaths and costs, according to a study of 41 Texas hospitals. The study, published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, was the first to look at multiple hospitals and to track how doctors used the technology, said David Bates, a Harvard University health policy researcher who was not involved in the study. Earlier studies looked at the impact of computerizing medical records at single institutions. Bates called the findings a "landmark" in a commentary in the journal. The findings support President Barack Obama's campaign proposal that spending $50 billion a year for five years on technology for electronic records would save money, said Neil Powe, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the study's senior author. The proposal was a key part of Obama's plan to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system. "I think there's enough information now to justify making major investments for large and medium-sized hospitals," Bates said. "It's as good as one can expect in terms of study design."

The study surveyed doctors who practiced at 41 hospitals across Texas and asked them whether they used computers to keep patient notes, order medications, list test results and track the reasons for other aspects of patients' care. The study correlated their responses with data from each hospital and found that the hospitals where doctors made the greatest use of electronic records had lower death rates, cheaper costs and shorter lengths of stay. The chance that a patient would die was 15% lower in hospitals that were ranked in the top third in their use of computerized records and notes, the study found.
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Title Annotation:RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY
Publication:MondayMorning
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 2, 2009
Words:283
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