Study: Residents like health information technology but researchers say actual benefits tough to measure

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Editor's note: This is a corrected version of a story that first appeared in McKnight's on June 15.

Comprehensive health information technology does not lead to any measurable positive or negative effects on the health outcomes of elderly nursing home residents, a new study finds.  

Researchers evaluated the influence of health information technology (HIT) systems on resident clinical, functional and quality-of-care outcome indicators while also gauging resident awareness of, and satisfaction with, the technology. Investigators conducted two personal assessments of 761 nursing home residents — one before their facilities adopted HIT programs and once after. They interviewed residents at five treatment and five comparison facilities, all within the New York City metropolitan area.

Despite less-than-rousing measurable gains with HIT, residents overall gave it a positive response. About 60% said they noticed no change in their care, but 30% said they felt care had improved (vs. about 7% that said it had declined). Residents also voiced favorable reactions toward electronic record-keeping platforms such as mobile phones. Seventy-one percent of residents said they believed that handheld devices improve care, and 73% said they are glad staff use handheld devices to track and manage their care.

The team of investigators, from Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University Stroud Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, said that the absence of positive or negative effects from HIT usage with residents is encouraging. They said that further studies are needed to determine the future of HIT in nursing homes. 
The study was published in the June 6 online edition of Journal of Aging and Health.