Researchers say: IT systems are an 'unfulfilled promise'

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Nursing home staffing standards reduced severe deficiency citations, researchers find
Nursing home staffing standards reduced severe deficiency citations, researchers find

The healthcare industry's deployment of information technology systems has fallen short of the expectations projected by the RAND Corporation in 2005. 

In the original report, paid for by companies that included the Cerner Corporation, RAND predicted the rapid adoption of health information technology would save $81 billion annually. The report spurred growth in companies producing electronic health records, and is believed to be a part of what pushed Congress to put billions in federal stimulus money toward EHRs in 2009.

The predictions were overly optimistic, the new study asserts. Over the past seven years, healthcare expenditures have grown $800 billion while technology's impact on healthcare efficiency and safety has been negligible, authors Arthur Kellermann, M.D., and Spencer S. Jones, Ph.D., contend in the January issue of Health Affairs. Neither Kellerman nor Jones was involved with the original report.

In their article, “What it Will Take to Achieve the Unfulfilled Promise of Health IT,” the writers attribute the disappointing performance of health IT to several factors: sluggish adoption of health IT systems; architecture that is neither interoperable nor easy to use; and the failure of healthcare providers and institutions to re-engineer care processes to reap the full benefits of health IT.

Still, the authors write the original promise of health IT can be met if the systems are redesigned to address these flaws by creating more standardized systems that are easier to use. They should be truly interoperable and afford patients more access to and control over their health data, they recommend. 

Providers must do their part by re-engineering care processes to most effectively take advantage of health IT, the authors write.