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'Most Wired' Hospitals Have Lower Patient Death Rates, Study Finds

Survey examined hospitals' use of IT in patient safety and quality of care, customer and patient services, business processes, and other areas.

The 100 "most wired" U.S. hospitals have an average risk-adjusted mortality rate 7.2% lower than less IT-savvy hospitals, according to a new study released by the American Hospital Association.

The lower mortality rate of those top 100 "wired" hospitals was adjusted for risks, such as the seriousness of the cases treated at the hospitals, the size of the hospitals, and their teaching status -- all factors that can affect patient mortality rates.

What this all means is that while the study didn't prove a direct cause-and-effect link between lower patient death rates and higher IT adoption at those hospitals, the findings "do prove that advanced clinical IT and lower mortality rates are present at the same hospitals," says Alden Solovy, executive editor of Hospitals & Health Networks, the journal of the American Hospital Association that conducted the seventh annual survey.

Through 502 voluntary survey responses, The 2005 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study evaluated the adoption and use of IT in 1,255 U.S. hospitals.

Solovy says the survey examined the hospitals' use of IT in several key areas, including patient safety and quality of care, customer and patient services, public health and safety, business processes, and workforce issues.

In the area of patient safety, for instance, the study looked at adoption of technologies such as bedside, bar-coded medication systems and computerized physician order-entry systems. Such systems can automatically alert doctors to patient drug allergies and interactions, as well as alert nurses to other potential mistakes before patients are actually administered drugs.

"We believe that IT is an important part of this drive to improve quality," says Solovy. "You can't do it with IT alone -- you need to adopt the technologies, cultural changes, and process improvements that all contribute to this quality improvement."

The 100 most wired hospitals weren't ranked in order, but rather represent those hospitals that scored among the highest for their use of IT.

Baylor Health Care System in Dallas was among the 100 most wired hospitals, and also was cited for its innovative use of a new wireless, self-service kiosk system for patient registration.

More than 95% of Baylor's main hospital supports wireless devices, including mobile tablet PCs that can be used by nurses and doctors at patients' bedsides, says Randy Fusco, Baylor VP of strategic solutions development.

As well as improving patient care, Fusco says, "The ability to leverage IT -- from biometrics to single-sign-on -- helps solve real-world problems and provide real value, like helping us proactively prevent or eliminate fraud."

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