And a second study found that use of electronic health records improves detection of growth disorders in children.
In the first study, researchers analyzed data from nearly 170,000 diabetes patients in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California system, which introduced electronic health records at outpatient clinics between 2005 and 2008.
The study examined the number of emergency-room visits, hospitalizations and office visits made by the patients between 2004 and 2009.
After electronic health records were introduced, there was a 5.5 percent decrease in emergency-room visits, a 5.2 percent decrease in overall hospitalizations and a 6.1 percent decrease in non-elective hospitalizations. There was no decrease in office visits.
Further research is needed to learn more about how the use of electronic health records affects health costs, Mary Reed, of Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and colleagues wrote in the study, which was published in the Sept. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Another study in the same issue of the journal found that use of electronic health records increased the detection of growth disorders in children in Finland.
Researchers compared the effectiveness of standard growth monitoring to a new computerized, automated growth monitoring (AGM) program integrated in an electronic health records system. Doctors diagnosed 28 of more than 32,400 children with a growth disorder in one year using the AGM program, compared with four out of about 33,000 children per year using the standard method.
The rate of growth disorder diagnoses was 0.9 per 1,000 using the AGM program, compared with 0.1 per 1,000 using the standard method, wrote Dr. Ulla Sankilampi, of Kuopio University Hospital, and colleagues.
Whether these results also apply to other countries has yet to be determined, the researchers said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about electronic health records.