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Do electronic health records improve health? It's complicated

When I started writing our article about a new paper by Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, on electronic health records, I thought the message was as straightforward as can be: Electronic health records are doing nothing to improve the quality of health care. But my editor wasted no time in showing me that the article (co-authored by Johns Hopkins medical student Max Romano, and published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine) was more nuanced than I'd first considered.

When it comes to technological change in a massive industry like medicine, the impact can take a very long time to show up. Even the contribution to the nation's productivity of computers themselves took decades to become evident in economic statistics. This New York Times article from 2000 reports on the dawning of proof of computers' productivity. It makes sense to me that the same slow change could come with electronic health records.

It would sure be nice if we could speed it up, though.

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