HLM: Where is the savings coming from?
ASK: We don't have the granularity in the data to answer that but we can speculate. Maybe it's that the automation makes the care more efficient or maybe it is a better charge capture or a more accurate reflection of the care that is received and that patients aren't being potentially overcharged. Or maybe hospitals are more efficient because they have them.
HLM: Why did you need to examine 5 million records?
ASK: We wanted to be as inclusive as possible. There are differences in the types of systems that are used and there is a lot of hope and belief that electronic health records are going to be the magic bullet to increase quality and decrease cost but there haven't been many national studies that have looked at such a large sample of the population to really determine if that is true. We wanted to do our best to figure out whether or not they could save money.
HLM: Why did you limit the study to hospital inpatients?
ASK: We only looked at hospitals and the care that patients got during their stay in the hospital. The only way to really measure outside of the hospital would be if there were quite a few interoperable electronic health records and there aren't.
Right now it's entirely possible that patients are treated by their primary care physician or at a specialty clinic and that electronic health record may or may not communicate with the one in the hospital. It would be virtually impossible based on patient privacy and things like that to link those records together.