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3/9/2011
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HHS Finds IT Boosts Quality, Efficiency Of Healthcare

Literature review shows 92% of recent studies support the government's push to bring technology into the medical office.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
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Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety

A study conducted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has found that 92% of recent articles showed that health IT (HIT) has an overall positive effect on key aspects of care, including quality and efficiency of healthcare.

Published in the March issue of Health Affairs, the study also found that some providers are dissatisfied with electronic health records (EHRs) and that their discontent with unsatisfactory technology or technology support is a barrier to achieving the potential of health IT.

Nevertheless, the report, "The Benefits of Health Information Technology: A Review of the Recent Literature Shows Predominantly Positive Results," concludes that health IT improves the overall quality of care and that the results validate the Obama administration's decision to increase health IT spending, which the report describes as a worthwhile endeavor.

David Blumenthal, national coordinator for HIT and one of the authors of the review, said in a statement: "This article brings us much more up-to-date, both in our confidence regarding the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of adoption and use of HIT, and also in our understanding of problem areas that still need to be addressed."

Just last month, Blumenthal criticized the results of a Stanford University study that showed that the use of EHRs did not significantly improve the quality of patient care, even when they were used with clinical decision support (CDS) systems that help health professionals make clinical decisions to better manage patient care.

Blumenthal said the Stanford study was flawed because the data was collected from 2005 to 2007 and is based on outdated health IT systems. He said the data did not reflect health IT systems in their modern form.

By contrast, the ONC study, which used methods that were employed by two previous independent reviews, included articles published from July 2007 up to February 2010, following up on earlier reviews of the literature from 1995 to 2004 and from 2004 to 2007.

The authors also said they included peer-reviewed publications assessing the effects of EHRs; computerized provider order entry (CPOE); CDS systems; health information exchanges (HIEs); e-prescribing for outpatients; patients' personal health records; patient registries; telemedicine or remote monitoring; information retrieval; and administrative functions.

"This review is important because it helps us correct for the lag in evidence that occurs naturally in the dynamic HIT field, where changes in technology and accelerating adoption cause the old literature to become quickly outdated," Blumenthal said.

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