A new study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine shows that patients have better medical outcomes when they are treated by physicians who consult computerized medical-information when making important treatment decisions. Computerized medical-information allows physicians to access information important to their patients' care that they might not otherwise be aware of, such as new medical data or results from recently released studies.
The study compared Medicare beneficiary data from 2004 to 2006 from 1,107 hospitals that used computerized medical-information with data from 2,305 hospitals that did not.
Researchers found that computerized medical-information can independently predict:
- Reduced mortality rates
- Shorter hospital stays for patients
- Better performance by medical staff as measured by quality metrics
Further, the Wall Street Journal notes the study found that hospitals that provided medical staff with access to computerized medical information "had better quality performance for care" to patients suffering:
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
The study's lead author estimates that the use of computerized medical-information saved 11,500 lives and shortened hospital stays by approximately 372,500 days over the life of the study.
The Wall Street Journal notes that an earlier study reported that the benefits of using computerized medical-information could not be "substantiated by research." However, the Harvard study shows promise, by indicating that doctors' access to important information at the time critical care-decisions are made may shorten the length of hospital stays, reduce the risk of many medical errors, including misdiagnosis and drug errors, and even reduce the number of fatalities resulting from medical malpractice.