Study shows health IT benefits diabetic patients

The greatest improvement was among patients with the most severe diseases.

The use of electronic health records directly improves treatment and outcomes for patients with diabetes, according to a recent study involving tens of thousands of patients. The greatest improvement was among patients with the most severe diseases.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California studied nearly 170,000 diabetics who were being treated as outpatients at the health system’s 17 medical centers between 2004 and 2009. The use of certified EHRs resulted in “statistically significant improvements in treatment, monitoring and disease control,” according to an abstract of the study, “Outpatient Electronic Health Records and the Clinical Care and Outcomes of Patients With Diabetes Mellitus.”

The researchers measured how EHRs helped clinicians intensify treatment to improve patients’ blood-glucose and LDL cholesterol levels.

"Increases in information availability, decision support, and order-entry functionality help clinicians to identify the most appropriate patients for drug-treatment intensification and retesting, which leads to better care of patients with diabetes," Dr. Marc Jaffe, clinical leader for the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program, said in a statement.

The improvements in blood-glucose and lipid levels were seen across the board, lead researcher Mary Reed said in a statement. The Kaiser Permanente researchers next intend to examine how EHR use affects emergency room visits for diabetics, she said.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provided funds for the study, which was published Oct. 2 by the Annals of Internal Medicine