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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Link Between Hospital IT and Patient Safety Becoming Stronger

An interesting paper appeared in the Journal of Healthcare Management recently.

It is reported in iHealthBeat.

Research Builds Case for Hospital IT Adoption To Boost Safety

by Kate Ackerman, iHealthBeat Associate Editor

Despite mounting evidence that IT can help boost patient safety, many hospitals have been reluctant to invest in technology like electronic health records and computerized physician order entry systems.

Only about 11% of hospitals that responded to an American Hospital Association survey released in February reported having a fully implemented EHR system. This reluctance is likely tied to financial, cultural and workflow barriers. In addition, there are several well-publicized instances in which IT actually added to problems at hospitals -- information that clearly supports hospital officials' resistance.

Experts believe that as the volume of research supporting the benefits of health IT increases and as the results of those studies are able to be generalized to hospitals nationwide, health care leaders' resistance to investing in IT will dwindle.

Jon White, director of Health IT at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said, "There is a good amount [of research] under our belt, but we also have a good amount more to go." He added that as research continues, "providers -- at least those [who] understand the literature and the evidence -- will kind of say you know, 'I deliver better care when I use these tools in this way; therefore, I have kind of a moral responsibility to do that.'"

Mounting Evidence

A study in the current issue of the Journal of Healthcare Management builds on existing research on IT and patient safety at hospitals.

"The evidence that IT when properly implemented can yield positive organizational benefits is beginning to be well known," but most studies on the topic "are conducted in very limited settings -- academic medical centers or other specialized institutions where information generated there may not necessarily translate to the average community hospital," Nir Menachemi, author of the study and associate professor at Florida State University's College of Medicine, said. He added, "So trying to begin filling in more pieces of the puzzle in terms of how IT affects care, we looked at this project so that the information could be generalized to the typical hospital."

The study, called "Hospital Adoption of Information Technologies and Improved Patient Safety," examined the relationship between IT adoption and AHRQ's patient safety indicators at 98 hospitals in Florida. The study found that eight patient safety indicators were related to at least one measure of IT adoption -- a finding the study's authors say hospital leaders should consider when making decisions about IT adoption.



  • AHA health IT survey
  • AHRQ
  • "Cedars-Sinai Suspends CPOE Use," iHealthBeat, 1/22/03
  • "Study: CPOE System Linked With Increased Patient Mortality," iHealthBeat, 12/8/2005

Read the full article on the web


Interestingly the full article – without charts – is also available:

Hospital adoption of information technologies and improved patient safety: a study of 98 hospitals in Florida.

by Menachemi, Nir Saunders, Charles Chukmaitov, Askar Matthews, Michael C. Brooks, Robert G.

Journal of Healthcare Management • Nov-Dec, 2007 •


Most of the studies linking the use of information technology (IT) to improved patient safety have been conducted in academic medical centers or have focused on a single institution or IT application. Our study explored the relationship between overall IT adoption and patient safety performance across hospitals in Florida. Primary data on hospital IT adoption were combined with secondary hospital discharge data. Regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between measures of IT adoption and the Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

We found that eight PSIs were related to at least one measure of IT adoption. Compared with administrative IT adoption, clinical IT adoption was related to more patient safety outcome measures. Hospitals with the most sophisticated and mature IT infrastructures performed significantly better on the largest number of PSIs. Adoption of IT is associated with desirable performance on many important measures of hospital patient safety. Hospital leaders and other decision makers who are examining IT systems should consider the impact of IT on patient safety.

This really is quite an important article as the iHealthBeat editor makes clear. By showing the relationship between clinical IT infrastructure and improved clinical outcomes the study adds a very significant brick in the wall in the case for further adoption of Clinical Health IT in Hospitals!

Great stuff.


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