Health IT use grows in hospitals, helps boost care quality

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Health IT has the potential to offer considerable quality of care improvements such as improving clinical informatics, diagnosis, treatment, patient safety and decreasing inefficiencies, according to a new study from the Mathematica research firm. The Study commissioned by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) looked at how six types of IT have affected hospital quality, including electronic lab results, electronic clinical notes, electronic images management, electronic lab orders, electronic reminders for guideline-based interventions, and e-prescribing.

Regarding quality, the study indicated:

  • 71 percent of respondents viewed health IT as beneficial for more timely clinical information, diagnosis and treatment
  • 22 percent felt that technology reduced errors and boosted patient safety
  • 10 percent felt there had been gains in communication within the care team.

As for the technology, the study found:

  • 88 percent of the hospitals evaluated were using IT for electronic laboratory results
  • 59 percent use electronic clinical notes systems
  • 50 percent for electronic images throughout the hospital
  • 49 percent for electronic lab orders
  • 24 percent use e-reminders for guideline-based interventions
  • 21 percent for e-prescribing.

However, all of this is not equal and depends a lot on hospital size and whether the facility is Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) accredited, according to the study. For certain technologies, smaller hospitals that are not accredited use IT about half as much as larger accredited hospitals. As an example, results indicated that 98 percent of larger accredited hospitals used IT for lab data compared with 48 percent of small hospitals without accreditation.

Mathematica surveyed 650 hospital executives from short-term acute care general and critical-access hospitals last summer.