Julia Adler-Milstein,1Claudia Salzberg,2Calvin Franz,3E. John Orav,2David Westfall Bates2
1University of Michigan 2Partners HealthCare 3Eastern Research Group
Background: Broad adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) is a potential strategy for curbing healthcare cost growth, which is particularly vital for Medicaid. Despite limited evidence for EHR-related cost savings, the 2009 HITECH Act included incentives for providers to become meaningful users of EHRs. We evaluated a large Massachusetts EHR pilot to obtain early insight into the potential for the national strategy to reduce short-run healthcare costs in the Medicaid population.
Methods: We calculated monthly ambulatory cost and visit measures from Medicaid claims data for beneficiaries receiving the majority of their care in the three Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative (MAeHC) pilot communities or in six matched control communities. Using a difference-in-differences of slope analysis, we assessed whether cost and visit trajectories differed in the pre-implementation period compared to the post-implementation period for intervention and control community members.
Results: We found evidence that EHR adoption impacted ambulatory medical cost in two of the three communities, but the effects were in opposite directions. Ambulatory medical costs increased more slowly in one intervention compared to its control communities in the pre-to-post period (difference-in-differences=-1.98%, p<0.001; PMPM savings of $41.60). In contrast, for a second pilot community, ambulatory medical cost increased more slowly in the control communities (difference-in-differences=2.56%, p=0.005; PMPM increase of $43.34).
Conclusions: As a stand-alone approach, adoption of commercially-available EHRs in community practices did not consistently impact Medicaid costs in the short-run. This suggests that future meaningful use criteria may need to specifically target cost savings and coordinate with payment reform efforts.
Keywords: Health Care Costs, Health Policy / Politics / Law / Regulation, Information Technology in Health, Medicaid