Alexandria, VA -November 15, 2012-The authors of a landmark study on the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) to reduce infant mortality will receive the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award. Amalia R. Miller, PhD, and Catherine E. Tucker, PhD, are being honored for their paper, "Can Health Care Information Technology Save Babies?" The award, presented by Research!America, recognizes economists whose work contributes to our understanding of the ways in which medical and health research - and new, research-based technologies and treatments - impact the economy. The award is supported by a grant from Merck & Co., Inc.
The study, published in Journal of Political Economy, provides solid evidence that creating an electronic rather than a paper interface between patient information and health care providers reduces neonatal mortality. They further demonstrated that the cost of EMRs used for this purpose is minimal when measured against the societal benefits.
"The research that underlies increasingly sophisticated health IT, including electronic medical records, is an important facet of research for health. We applaud Drs. Miller and Tucker for demonstrating in such concrete terms the value of research-based EMRs in meeting a crucial societal goal," said Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America. "Further, by demonstrating the modest cost of the use of the technology per life saved, they have made a strong economic case for investing in the research to develop similar health care tools."
The findings are particularly important given that the U.S. has struggled for years to reduce infant mortality rates, according to the paper. Each year, 18,000 babies die in the United States within their first 28 days of life. According to the authors, this high rate of neonatal mortality means that the United States is ranked 43rd in the world and lags behind 24 of the 27 members of the European Union.
"Evaluating the cost effectiveness of medical innovation in actual practice has been challenging," said Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director, Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, Brookings Institution, and a Research!America Board member. "This important research uses creative methods to overcome the challenges and provide important new evidence on cost effectiveness of electronic medical records."
Using a 12-year county-level panel, the authors found that EMRs reduced neonatal mortality by 16 deaths per 100,000 live births. The authors credit this decrease to the fact that EMRs facilitate fast and accurate access to patient records, which improves diagnosis and patient monitoring.
Miller and Tucker will be honored at a reception at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) building in Washington, DC, on Thursday, November 15, 2012. The reception is preceded by a post-election panel discussion about the outlook for medical research and innovation.
Research!America is the nation's largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations that represent the voices of 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.