Lead author Ann Kutney-Lee and co-author Deena Kelly, both of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, said the study involved more than 16,000 nurses working at 316 hospitals in four states.
The study, published in the Journal of Nursing, found having a basic electronic health records system was associated with better outcomes independently of nurse staffing -- indicating that both play an important role in quality of care.
In addition, nurses in hospitals with fully implemented basic electronic health records were significantly less likely to report unfavorable patient safety issues, frequent medication errors and low quality of care, the study said.
Recent estimates indicate 12 percent of U.S. hospitals have a basic electronic health records system in place, but that is likely to change under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which in 2011 began to offer federal incentive payments of $2 million or more to healthcare providers and hospitals to use electronic health records technologies.
"Electronic health records s are rapidly becoming part of the daily practice of the bedside nurse," Kutney-Lee said in a statement.
The findings were published in the Journal of Nursing Administration.