Efficiency and economic benefits of a payer-based electronic health record in an emergency department

Gregory W Daniel, Edward Ewen, Vincent J Willey, Charles L Reese Iv, Farshad Shirazi, Daniel C Malone
Academic Emergency Medicine 2010, 17 (8): 824-33

OBJECTIVES: The objective was to evaluate the use of a payer-based electronic health record (P-EHR), which is a clinical summary of a patient's medical and pharmacy claims history, in an emergency department (ED) on length of stay (LOS) and plan payments.

METHODS: A large urban ED partnered with the dominant health plan in the region and implemented P-EHR technology in September 2005 for widespread use for health plan members presenting to the ED. A retrospective observational study design was used to evaluate this previously implemented P-EHR. Health plan and electronic hospital data were used to identify 2,288 ED encounters. Encounters with P-EHR use (n = 779) were identified between September 1, 2005, and February 17, 2006; encounters from the same health plan (n = 1,509) between November 1, 2004, and March 31, 2005, were compared. Outcomes were ED LOS and plan payment for the ED encounter. Analyses evaluated the effect of using the P-EHR in the ED setting on study outcomes using multivariate regressions and the nonparametric bootstrap.

RESULTS: After covariate adjustment, among visits resulting in discharge (ED-only), P-EHR visits were 19 minutes shorter (95% confidence interval [CI] = 5 to 33 minutes) than non-P-EHR visits. Among visits resulting in hospitalization, the P-EHR was associated with an average 77-minute shorter ED LOS (95% CI = 28 to 126 minutes), compared to non-P-EHR visits. The P-EHR was associated with an average of $1,560 (95% CI = $43 to $2,910) lower total plan expenditures for hospitalized visits. No significant difference in total payments was observed among discharged visits.

CONCLUSIONS: In the study ED, the P-EHR was associated with a significant reduction in ED LOS overall and was associated with lower plan payments for visits that resulted in hospitalization.

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