Electronic health records shown to improve type 2 diabetes care

For individuals with type 2 diabetes, choosing the right doctor can make a major difference in the quality of care they receive. Since it is such an intensive condition that requires frequent visits to the doctor, diabetes demands top quality treatment from qualified professionals.

Increasingly, choosing the right doctor may mean inquiring about his or her system of record keeping. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that diabetic patients received better care from doctors who use electronic health records (EHRs).

For the study, researchers examined patients' records to see whether or not they received various cardiovascular and metabolic tests that are recommended for individuals with type 2 diabetes.

The results showed that 43.7 percent of patients being treated by doctors using EHRs received four of the five recommended tests, compared to only 15.7 percent among those being treated by paper-based doctors. Furthermore, nearly half of patients in the electronic systems group received all the tests, while only 7 percent of those in paper records office were fully screened.

The researchers told Government Health IT that ability of primary care providers to share patients' records electronically with other specialists may have played a role in the improvements in care observed by the study.

However, they added that these gains in care quality do not necessarily lead to better health for diabetics, as much of what determines a patient's well-being happens outside of the doctor's office. Individuals still need to take responsibility to eat healthy and get exercise.

Still, the fact that patients are more likely to get tested for cardiovascular and metabolic complications may mean that doctors using EHRs are in a better position to make these types of lifestyle recommendations to their patients because they have more evidence to support their suggestions.

There are still many other factors that a person with type 2 diabetes may want to think about when selecting a doctor, such as how comfortable they feel with him or her. However, EHRs may give medical professionals an advantage that is worth considering.