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Electronic patient records have been the subject of multiple studies, which have borne out the theory that the health information technology (HIT) reduces costs. But new research that focuses on how such information is used paints a very different picture.
According to The Wall Street Journal Health Blog, a study of medical test availability found that doctors who had computerized access to imaging tests and lab results were actually more likely to order more tests (in 18% of visits) than those who used paper records (12.9%). When more advanced imaging tests were considered, the difference spiked to 71% for doctors with electronic access.
So what’s going on here? The research isn’t clear on this point, but study co-author Danny McCormick of the Cambridge Health Alliance says he and his fellow authors speculate that because test results often fall in a grey area, “subtle factors such as the convenience of retrieving results” may spur a doctor to order an additional test.
“If [doctors know] that the image result will show up on the screen with no questions and no problems, it may subtly influence them to order” the test, says McCormick. Further, as the study observes, doctors who typically order tests may also be more likely to have HIT in place – making all the easier to view those tests.