Summit: Government neglects IT in LTC settings

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As the federal government has pushed for information technology in healthcare settings, it has left one key healthcare sector behind: long-term care.

Long-term care advocates came to that conclusion and mulled the topic this week at the Long-Term Care Health IT Summit in Chicago. Federal health IT officials have focused more on hospitals and physicians' offices in spreading the use of IT to improve care and reduce cost, speakers said.

"It's time that long-term care has an equal seat at that table," said Kevin Warren, who represented the American Health Quality Association. The American Health Information Management Association and eight other associations, including the major nursing home associations, sponsored the two-day meeting. 

But long-term care settings present problems for IT experts, the summit revealed. Many nursing homes are small operations that lack IT expertise. Also, IT systems have to be user-friendly to accommodate the nursing home workforce, which is largely poorly educated. Nursing homes are also reluctant to invest in IT because of the cost of running their operations.

Organizers had a turn-away crowd of 130 and hope to follow up with a similar conference in the future. They hoped to summarize recommendations from the group's brainstorming sessions and forward them to the White House Conference on Aging, among other places.