Jan 14, 2013 4:38 PM GMT
The conversion to electronic health records has failed so far to produce the hoped-for savings in health care costs and has had mixed results, at best, in improving efficiency and patient care, according to a new analysis by the influential RAND Corporation.
Optimistic predictions by RAND in 2005 helped drive explosive growth in the electronic records industry and encouraged the federal government to give billions of dollars in financial incentives to hospitals and doctors that put the systems in place.
“We’ve not achieved the productivity and quality benefits that are unquestionably there for the taking,” said Dr. Arthur L. Kellermann, one of the authors of a reassessment by RAND that was published in this month’s edition of Health Affairs, an academic journal.
RAND’s 2005 report was paid for by a group of companies, including General Electric and Cerner Corporation, that have profited by developing and selling electronic records systems to hospitals and physician practices. Cerner’s revenue has nearly tripled since the report was released, to a projected $3 billion in 2013, from $1 billion in 2005.
The report predicted that widespread use of electronic records could save the United States health care system at least $81 billion a year, a figure RAND now says was overstated. The study was widely praised within the technology industry and helped persuade Congress and the Obama administration to authorize billions of dollars in federal stimulus money in 2009 to help hospitals and doctors pay for the installation of electronic records systems.
“RAND got a lot of attention and a lot of buzz with the original analysis,” said Dr. Kellermann, who was not involved in the 2005 study. “The industry quickly embraced it.”
But evidence of significant savings is scant, and there is increasing concern that electronic records have actually added to costs by making it easier to bill more for some services.