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Electronic Medical Records, Nurse Staffing, and Nurse-Sensitive Patient Outcomes: Evidence from California Hospitals, 19982007

Objective. To estimate the effects of electronic medical records (EMR) implementation on medical-surgical acute unit costs, length of stay, nurse staffing levels, nursing skill mix, nurse cost per hour, and nurse-sensitive patient outcomes.

Data Sources. Data on EMR implementation came from the 1998–2007 HIMSS Analytics Databases. Data on nurse staffing and patient outcomes came from the 1998–2007 Annual Financial Disclosure Reports and Patient Discharge Databases of the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).

Methods. Longitudinal analysis of an unbalanced panel of 326 short-term, general acute care hospitals in California. Marginal effects estimated using fixed effects (within-hospital) OLS regression.

Principal Findings. EMR implementation was associated with 6–10 percent higher cost per discharge in medical-surgical acute units. EMR stage 2 increased registered nurse hours per patient day by 15–26 percent and reduced licensed vocational nurse cost per hour by 2–4 percent. EMR stage 3 was associated with 3–4 percent lower rates of in-hospital mortality for conditions.

Conclusions. Our results suggest that advanced EMR applications may increase hospital costs and nurse staffing levels, as well as increase complications and decrease mortality for some conditions. Contrary to expectation, we found no support for the proposition that EMR reduced length of stay or decreased the demand for nurses.

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