January 27, 2009

Health Information Technology Saves Lives In Hospitals

A new study has found evidence to suggest that hospitals that have a higher rate of use of health information technology (HIT) may see fewer deaths, fewer complications, and lower health care costs.

The study was conducted by Dr. Ruben Amarasingham, Associate Chief of Medicine at Parkland Health & Hospital System and Assistant Professor of Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical School, and Dr. Neil Powe, Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Their study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

They found that patients at hospitals that ranked the highest in use of HIT were 15 percent less likely to die than those from lower ranked hospitals.

"If these results were to hold for all hospitals in the United States, computerizing notes and records might have the potential to save 100,000 lives annually," Dr. Powe said in a statement.

Researchers looked beyond whether or not hospitals had elements of health information technology. They wanted to gauge how much hospital doctors were actually using the technology.

They surveyed physicians at 41 Texas hospitals, and checked the records of more then 160,000 patients over age 50 to see if there was a link between information technology and the care given for one of four conditions: heart attack, heart failure, heart bypass and pneumonia, according to Reuters.

The researchers looked at four types of information systems - those that automate notes and records, manage tests results, manage doctor's orders for patient care and those that help doctors make medical decisions.

"They found that increased use of information technology was associated with both lower costs and better outcomes," said Dr. David Bates of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, whose editorial on the study appears in the same journal.

"These findings tell us, straight from the physicians using it, that this technology works to improve quality of care for patients"”the first priority of health information technology," said Anne-Marie Audet, Vice President for Quality Improvement and Efficiency of the Commonwealth Fund, which funded the study.

"But, in order to save lives and keep costs downs, health information technology has to be used to its fullest extent. As President Obama and his health care team consider investing in this technology for the nation, it would make sense to factor in on-going support and training for health care providers so that the technology can live up to its potential," she added.


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