Hospitals Using Health IT Provide Better Care at Lower Cost

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<p>When physicians use health information technology to its full potential, the result is fewer deaths, fewer complications, and lower health care costs, according to the first study to directly measure physicians' use of health IT in a hospital setting.<br><br>In the study, <a href="/publications/in-the-literature/2009/jan/clinical-information-technologies-and-inpatient-outcomes--a-multiple-hospital-study
">Clinical Information Technologies and Inpatient Outcomes: A Multiple Hospital Study</a> (<em>Archives of Internal Medicine,</em> Jan. 26), a team led by Ruben Amarasingham, M.D., of Southwestern Medical School surveyed physicians from 41 Texas hospitals treating patients for a variety of conditions, including heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia. The researchers found that relatively modest increases in technology use had dramatic results. For example, a 10-percentage-point increase in the use of electronic notes and medical records resulted in a 15 percent decrease in patient deaths. And when doctors electronically entered their instructions for patient care, death rates dropped up to 55 percent for some procedures.<br><br>In addition, hospitals using automated test results, order entry, and clinical decision support saw lower costs for all hospital admissions.<br><br>"These findings tell us, straight from the physicians using it, that this technology works to improve quality of care for patients, which should be the first priority of health IT," said Anne-Marie J. Audet, M.D., the Commonwealth Fund's vice president for quality improvement and efficiency. The results also show the importance of adequately training clinicians to use the new technologies and designing IT around clinical workflows, the authors say.<br><br><strong>More on Health IT. . .</strong><br><a href="/publications/perspectives-on-health-reform-briefs/2009/jan/the-federal-role-in-promoting-health-information-technology
">The Federal Role in Promoting Health Information Technology</a>. As part of The Commonwealth Fund's new series, "Perspectives on Health Reform," David Blumenthal, M.D., director of the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners HealthCare System and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, writes that the federal government can help providers overcome the financial, technical, and logistical obstacles to adoption of health IT. Blumenthal discusses a range of policy options--from assisting financially strapped providers with IT acquisition, to reforming the provider payment system, to creating national regulations and standards for data security and patient privacy.<br><br><a href="/aboutus/aboutus_show.htm?doc_id=799901">Health Information Technology: Key Lever in Health System Transformation</a>. In her new column, Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis calls health IT a critical component of efforts to reform the U.S. health care system, when implemented alongside other key strategies such as payment reform and an overall commitment to performance improvement. "Just as investment in railroads, air traffic control, and interstate highways facilitated economic development and national prosperity in the 20th century, so too will the spread of health IT and the development of a national health information network bring long-run benefits and gains to the nation in the 21st century," writes Davis. "It is crucial that our federal leadership move now to harness the power of information technology and put the nation on a path to high performance."</p>