Patient Involvement in Healthcare Technology Improves Outcomes

February 27, 2009

A new study has discovered that patient involvement in integrating information technology into doctors' offices and hospitals can improve patient outcomes.

A new study from Harvard Medical School and two other institutions has discovered that patient involvement in integrating information technology into doctors’ offices and hospitals can improve patient outcomes.

The study included 300,000 electronic medical records (EMRs) gathered from the Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a group practice in Massachusetts that has been using electronic medical records for more than a decade. Nearly 21,900 of those patients who were overdue for colorectal cancer screenings were then identified, as well as the 110 physicians who worked with them. The patients were sent personal letters that explained that they were overdue for screening tests and provided information about having those tests done, and the doctors received small pop-up reminders when they looked at EMRs during office visits.

About 15 months into the study, 44 percent of patients who were sent a reminder went for a screening test, while only 38 percent of those who did not receive a reminder had one done.

“We were pleased to see the effect of the patient mailings,” said John Ayanian, one author of the study and a professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

However, the reminders that were provided for the doctors did not lead to a significant increase in screening rates. According to Ayanian, other studies have shown that doctors are so busy during office visits that they either don’t have time or don’t remember to talk to the patient about screening tests.

The researchers added that this is one way that e-records can be even more important, because data systems that can delve into stored patient information can help the health care system come up with additional ways to empower patients.

To see an abstract of the journal article written about the study, visit: http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/169/4/364

To see the press release from Harvard Medical School, visit: http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/022309_ayanian.html

specialty: primary care