Health care organizations have installed electronic systems to increase efficiency in health care. Empirically assessing the cost-effectiveness of technologies to the health care system is a challenging and complex task. This study examined cost-effectiveness of additional clinical information supplied via an EHR system by simulating a case of abdominal aortic aneurysm devised and acted professionally by the Israel Center of Medical Simulation. We conducted a simulation-based study on physicians who were asked to treat a simulated patient for the prevalent medical scenario of hip and leg pain that actually corresponded to an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Half of the participating physicians from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Tel-Hashomer Hospital - Israel's largest - had access to an EHR system that integrates medical data from multiple health providers (community and hospitals) in addition to the local health record, and half did not. To model medical decision making, the results of the simulation were combined with a Markov Model within a decision tree. Cost-effectiveness was analyzed by comparing the effects of the admission/discharge decision in units of quality adjusted life years (QALYs) to the estimated costs. The results showed that using EHR in the ED increases the QALY of the patient and improves medical decision-making. The expenditure per patient for one QALY unit as a result of using the EHR was $1229, which is very cost-effective according to many accepted threshold values (less than all these values). Thus, using the EHR contributes to making a cost-effective decision in this specific but prevalent case.
Keywords: Cost-effectiveness; Electronic health record; Emergency departments; Markov model; QALY.