- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Health care providers that adopt computerized records and tracking systems do a better job of treating patients, a study suggests.

The study found that patients in the Veterans Affairs system — where doctors nationwide have electronic access to everything from old treatment notes to recent X-rays — received 67 percent of the recommended care for their conditions.

Patients in a comparison group of non-VA outlets, some with insurance and some without, received 51 percent of the care recommended.

Most non-VA hospitals, doctor’s offices, health maintenance organizations, public health clinics and other facilities trail the agency in the use of electronic access to patient histories, the study’s authors said.

The study appears in today’s issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“I think there are lessons for the rest of the country’s health care system. The VA’s built an information superhighway,” said the lead author, Dr. Steven M. Asch, a researcher at a VA center in Los Angeles.

The electronic files track patient care and can alert doctors if a recommended procedure has not been administered.

Dr. John Daigh, a VA watchdog for the U.S. inspector general’s office, said the study appears to show the agency’s high-tech records system, adopted over the past decade, is paying dividends.

“It makes all the difference in the world when you sit down to talk to someone and you dial up their records and you can see their history for the last five or six years,” Dr. Daigh said. “It’s much easier to deliver quality care.”

The study of 26 conditions — from depression to diabetes to heart care — in 1,588 men older than 35 was funded by the VA, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other sources.

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