EHRs May Lead to More Rather Than Less Imaging

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Electronic Health Records have largely been viewed as a critical way to reduce health care costs. The argument goes that when doctors have access to previous test results they are less likely to order additional or duplicative tests. Not so, based on a recent study published in the current issue of Health Affairs. The study found that EHRs may actually increase the number of imaging tests ordered. The study looked at 28,741 patient visits to 1,187 office-based physicians in 2008 and found that physicians’ access to computerized imaging tests resulted in a 40%-70% greater likelihood of an imaging test being ordered. “These findings raise the possibility that, as currently implemented, electronic access does not decrease test ordering in the office setting and may even increase it, possibly because of system features that are enticements to ordering,” according to the article abstract. The article concludes that EHRs are unproven as a cost-control strategy for reducing unnecessary imaging tests.