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EHRs May Slow Growth in Ambulatory Health Care Costs

MONDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) modestly slows growth in ambulatory health care costs, according to research published in the July 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Julia Adler-Milstein, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues analyzed data from a natural experiment that included 806 ambulatory clinicians across three Massachusetts communities which adopted subsidized EHRs and six matched control communities that applied but were not selected to participate in the EHR program. Commercial claims data (January 2005 to June 2009) were used to assess health care costs.

The researchers found that ambulatory EHR adoption did not impact total cost (P = 0.135), but the results favored savings ($21.95 per member per month [PMPM] in savings to $1.53 PMPM in higher costs). Ambulatory cost growth was significantly slowed. The projected ambulatory savings were $4.69 PMPM (3.10 percent of total PMPM cost). There were significant decreases in ambulatory radiology costs, with projected savings of $1.61 PMPM (1.07 percent of total PMPM cost).

"Broader changes in the organization and payment of care may prompt clinicians to use EHRs in ways that result in more substantial savings," the authors write.

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