ONC Touts Research On Health IT Benefits In Health Affairs Article

Researchers from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and other Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) leaders are touting new studies they say show the benefits of investing in health information technology (health IT).

Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as much as $27 billion Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments will be available to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals when they adopt certified EHR technology and successfully demonstrate “meaningful use” of the technology in ways that improve quality, safety, and effectiveness of patient-centered care.

On March 8, 2011, ONC researches reported results of a comprehensive review of recent studies it says show the effects of health IT on key aspects of health care on the ONC website and in Health Affairs.   

According to Donald Berwick, M.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the study supports the investments that the HITECH Act makes in health IT. “These new findings are very significant in helping to confirm that our Nation has made the right choice in moving aggressively toward adoption of health information technology,” said Dr. Berwick. “These new findings are very significant in helping to confirm that our Nation has made the right choice in moving aggressively toward adoption of health information technology.”

The review included articles published from July 2007 up to February 2010, following up on earlier reviews of articles from 1995 to 2004 and from 2004 to 2007. This latest review initially surveyed more than 4,000 peer-reviewed articles, of which 154 were found qualified for the parameters of the study, a number similar to the previous efforts.  In addition to quality and efficiency of care, the authors categorized additional outcomes including access to care, preventive care, care process, patient safety, and provider or patient satisfaction.

According to the authors, a current review of 154 peer-reviewed studies from July 2007 to February 2010 found:

  • More than 92 percent reached positive overall conclusions on the effects of health IT;
  • 30 percent found mixed but predominantly positive results; and
  • Ten articles were found to have negative or mixed-negative results.

ONC reports that the review also reflected a new balance of evidence between HIT “leader” organizations and other entities, especially smaller medical practices. In previous years, much evidence has come from the “leaders.” The current review shows increased evidence of benefits for others as well.

Examples of positive results highlighted by ONC in its reports include:

  • One study found that at three New York City dialysis centers, patient mortality decreased by as much as 48 percent while nurse staffing decreased by 25 percent in the three years following implementation of electronic health records (EHRs).
  • In an inpatient study, a clinical decision support tool designed to decrease unnecessary red blood cell transfusions reduced both transfusions and costs, with no increase in patient length-of-stay or mortality.
  • Another study addressing HIT in 41 Texas hospitals found that hospitals with more advanced HIT had fewer complications, lower mortality and lower costs than hospitals with less advanced HIT.

ONC researchers report that negative findings in the study were most often associated with provider or staff satisfaction related to difficulties in the process of transitioning from paper-based to electronic-based records and care. The researchers conclude these findings “highlight the need for studies that document the challenging aspects of implementing HIT more specifically and how these challenges might be addressed,” such as through strong leadership or staff participation when adopting and implementing HIT.

Reflecting on the findings, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., said, “My own personal experience in switching my practice from paper to EHRs showed that the change requires some initial effort; however, it did not interrupt work flow in the clinic. The results are better care for patients and new opportunities for the physician and staff to improve quality outcomes.” Dr. Benjamin switched to EHRs in her Gulf Coast Alabama family practice after two hurricanes and a fire destroyed the clinic’s paper records.

At the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, where research into health informatics has been supported since 1968, agency Director Carolyn Clancy, M.D., called attention to the importance of rapid information feedback and current evidence as the Nation pursues HIT implementation. “As we have known, and this new review of the available literature shows, HIT holds tremendous potential to improve health care quality. It is important that we continue to use experience from the field and scientific evidence to guide our efforts to improve the quality and safety of health care for all Americans.”

For Help With Monitoring Developments, Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance monitoring federal health reform, policy or enforcement developments, or to review or respond to these or other health care or health IT related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others including highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role: Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others..   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

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©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

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