The study is among the first in the U.S. to show that electronically maintained health records can improve outcomes among heart patients and possibly even lower health care costs.
Researchers followed 421 patients with coronary artery disease enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente Colorado managed care health plan. Medical records for the patients, including physician visits and laboratory and pharmacy data, were kept electronically.
The patients were participants in an intensive pilot intervention program designed to keep them on cholesterol-lowering and blood-pressure-lowering drugs with the goal of reducing their risk for future heart attacks and strokes.
The program -- which linked patients to teams of cardiologists, pharmacists, nurses, and primary care doctors through electronic health records and direct counseling -- resulted in high rates of patient drug compliance and attainment of goals for blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
After participation in this intensive program, half of the patients were moved to a program where they were followed only by their primary care doctor and received far less costly electronically generated reminders of needed lab tests.
These electronic prompts proved to be just as effective as the intervention program for keeping cholesterol and blood pressure at goal levels.
"The takeaway message here is that we can help support patients in maintaining treatment goals and medication adherence, which is often a challenge with most chronic conditions," lead author Kari L. Olson, of Kaiser Permanente Colorado, says in a news release. "Using technology and integrated systems already in place, we can help keep patients healthy for longer and deliver continuity of care in a cost-efficient manner."
The study appears in the latest issue of The American Journal of Managed Care.