Doctors order more X-rays, not fewer, with computer access

This excerpt is taken from Lena H. Sun’s article in the Washington Post National: Doctors order more X-rays, not fewer, with computer access.

“In the debate over the high cost of health care, federal policymakers have always claimed that one way to cut costs is for doctors to use electronic medical records and other information technology. Doing so, they say, avoids duplication and saves money.

But new research suggests that may not be the case.

Doctors who have easy computer access to results of X-rays, CT scans and MRIs are 40 to 70 percent more likely to order those kinds of tests than doctors without electronic access, according to a study to be published in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs.

“On average, this is comparing doctors who had electronic medical records and those who didn’t,” said lead author Danny McCormick, a physician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Researchers say the findings challenge a key premise of the nation’s multibillion-dollar effort to promote the widespread adoption of health information technology.

“This should give pause to those making the argument,” McCormick said. Instead of saving money, that effort could drive costs higher, he said.”

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