Studies Say There Is No Magic Bullet for Health IT Adoption

June 24, 2011
Although health IT adoption can yield significant benefits, it may not necessarily improve the quality of care, according to findings from studies

Although health IT adoption can yield significant benefits, it may not necessarily improve the quality of care, according to findings from studies published in the April issue of Health Affairs, a journal based in Bethesda, Md.

The journal published papers examining the successes and failures various organizations have had in adopting and implementing health IT. Some of the findings were as follows:

· Investment in health IT can yield significant benefits, according to a study by the Center for IT Leadership at Partners in Healthcare (Charlestown, Mass) of Department of Veterans Affairs. From 1997 to 2007, the investment yielded $3.09 billion in potential cumulative net benefits, while improving healthcare quality.

· Adoption of health IT is not a magic bullet for improving quality; success may depend on how it is implemented and the environment in which it is deployed, according to a study by the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital. The group found only modest performance improvements in targeted areas, such as prevention of surgical complications, following adoption of EHR systems. Another study by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health found that use of EHRs and CPOE improved quality for some measures and noted greater quality improvements in academic hospitals than nonacademic hospitals.

· Interaction with health IT is increasingly becoming part of the patient experience, say researchers at Group Health Cooperative’s Group Health Research Institute (Seattle), who found that nearly one-third of all patient encounters with primary care physicians were conducted through secure e-mail messaging.

· The transition to paperless health records is not only complex, it’s often a struggle, according to leaders at Renaissance Health (Cambridge, Mass) and the AtlantiCare Special Care Center (Atlantic City, N.J.). While implementing an EHR system at a medical home practice, they found that limitations in the technology gave rise to medication errors, interruptions in work flow, and other problems.

· Despite efforts to increase health IT adoption among physician practices, barriers remain, according to researchers at RTI International (Chicago), who conducted a study of nearly 5,000 office-based physicians in the U.S., and found that only 18 percent had purchased at least a basic EHR system.

· Even with health IT support, hospitals vary widely in their ability to prevent medication errors, according to findings from a study by CSC Healthcare (Waltham, Mass.). Of 62 hospitals using CPOE, hospitals were able to detect just 44 percent of potential adverse drug events.

· Small clinics should enlist tech assistance and reduce workloads temporarily during a health IT implementation, according to a study by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (Washington, D.C.), which found that practices that faired the best not only had outside training but also reduced their patient load during a period of one to three months.

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