Electronic health records have been increasingly important in the health care world in recent years, thanks to their strong ability to streamline the needs of many doctors and workers in the field. Two new studies into the technology's effectiveness have found that it may have a drastic effect in improving medication adherence, especially with chronic illnesses like diabetes.

One such study regarding the use of an online personal health record helped patients with diabetes increase their adherence to medication, while also improving their cholesterol levels in the process.

More than 17,000 patients from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California were tracked for a period of five years. Researchers found that medication non-adherence, as well as poor control of cholesterol levels, went down by 6 percent when users kept strict regiments. The patients in question averaged more than six medications and 11 outpatient visits every year.

"Medication adherence and other health behaviors are often the hardest things for a health care system to influence," said senior author Andrew J. Karter, Ph.D., research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. "Offering patients the option of ordering prescription refills online may create efficiencies for pharmacy operations, convenience for patients, and also improvements in adherence and health."

Studies backed upheld
A second study that took place across the country backed up these findings. In the Buffalo Niagara section of New York, a $16.1 million grant was awarded to hospitals from the government to test the effectiveness of electronic health records. More than 300 doctors took part and found that upgrading their systems led to better control of patient blood sugar levels, additionally reducing the number of hospitalizations that could have otherwise been avoided.

What's more, while the study was focused on diabetes, the same results could likely be found in treating congestive heart failure, depression and a variety of other conditions.

In particular, the numbers of diabetes patients with uncontrolled blood sugar levels improved by 4 percent on average, though some locations saw growth of as much as 10 percent. Predictions found that hospitals would likely save as much as $18 million per year if just a fifth of potential patients enacted the change.

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