HIT Critical To Improving Patient Care - InformationWeek

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Healthcare // Clinical Information Systems
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4/15/2010
01:41 PM
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HIT Critical To Improving Patient Care

Supplying medical providers with health information technology will ultimately yield improvements in patient health, says a government report.

If the nation is to achieve a higher quality of healthcare in the foreseeable future, the adoption of health information technology is a critical step that will empower providers as they administer care to patients, a National Healthcare Quality Report said.

Published on Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, the report said medical providers need reliable information about their performance which will help them improve their activities.

"Realistically, [health] IT infrastructure is needed to ensure that relevant data are collected regularly, systematically, and unobtrusively while protecting patient privacy and confidentiality. Patients, including individuals with limited English proficiency or disabilities, need to have meaningful access to their health records to ensure accuracy and completeness," the report said.

Among the issues to be addressed, the report said that health IT needs to provide information that users can understand and that is interoperable across different institutions' data platforms, policies, and procedures.

The document also alluded to the shortcomings, explaining that information systems, while necessary, are not sufficient for ensuring high-quality healthcare.

"Quality improvement typically requires examining patterns of care across panels of patients rather than one patient at a time. Unfortunately, information systems often are not designed to collect data to support quality improvement as the primary purpose. Retrofitting legacy health information systems to capture data on quality measures is often labor intensive," the report said.

Improving the results of health IT requires that systems go beyond simple automated recordkeeping to convey performance measures that calculate automatically from health records. The data must also be in a format that can be easily shared and compared across all providers involved with a patient's care, the document said.

The report cited American Recovery and Reinvestment Act reimbursement incentives for providers to adopt electronic health records, and to achieve meaningful use of them. It said that the ARRA may help providers make this transition from simply capturing and sharing data to using the information for decision support of care processes, and that this will ultimately yield improvements in health outcomes.

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