In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allocated over $20 billion to help providers adopt health information technology (HIT). Still, implementation has lagged recommended projections and relatively little is known about how HIT actually affects the quality of patient care in hospitals.
What the Study Found
Based on a sample of 401 nonspecialized hospitals, Commonwealth Fund–supported researchers found that facilities with high levels of HIT implementation also pursued a greater number of activities intended to improve the quality of patient care. These activities included enhanced communication, documentation, performance monitoring, and error prevention. As a result, those hospitals performed significantly better on mortality rates, patient satisfaction, and assessments of patient care quality by hospital quality managers.
When hospitals implement robust HIT systems, they improve their performance on key quality-of-care measures. But barriers, such as high costs and concerns about decreased physician productivity, have kept hospital implementation levels below the targets set by quality improvement proponents. Although further research is needed to determine which features of HIT have the most impact on quality, this study provides evidence that such implementation efforts are clearly warranted.