Evidence proves health information technology provides patient safety

A recent study by the Research Triangle Institute concluded that advances in health information technology can improve the quality and safety of patients.

Health information technology has been used in health care systems all across the U.S. It has gathered both negative and positive attention in regard to if the systems can actually improve quality and safety of health care.

An overall study of recent research
The study sought out to prove the positive effects that health information technology has on heath care quality and safety.

"Possibly the best example is the safety of laboratory testing, which has improved by four orders of magnitude over the past half century, associated with the implementation of automated systems and test management programs," stated the researcher's report.

The study said that health IT is still evolving, which says the results of older studies should not be trusted as much as the recent research.

"Between 2006 and 2014, a linked series of four systematic reviews of health information technology impact were published, each using a consistent methodology to identify and review articles of interest," the researcher's study stated.

4 recent reviews of health IT
The first study, published in 2006 by B. Chaudry and colleagues, sought to focus on quality, efficiency and cost of health information technology. The study paid close attention to decision support, Electronic Health Records and computerized physician order entry. The five key effects of health information technology that the study found were:

  • Increased delivery of care complied to protocols and guidelines
  • The capability for monitoring disease conditions was enhanced
  • The rate of medication errors had decreased significantly
  • The rates of the use of care decreased
  • There was a mix effect on time use.

The second study, published in 2009 by Golzweig, reviewed the state of the field since Chaundry's study. The findings of Golzweig and his colleagues remained positive, however, the improvements made were only slim.

The third study, published in 2011 by Buntin and colleagues, took place after HITECH programs, which included the incentive programs for hospitals to use EHRs, were being operated. The study found especially positive outcomes in health information technology. Several cases analyzed noted exceptional improvements in safety outcomes.

An example of success is found in a study of 41 Texas hospitals. They established that both mortality rates and complications beforehand were immensely reduced in the centers equipped with EHRs.

The most recent study of the four was performed by S. Jones and colleagues in January 2014. It focused on overall health information technology functions. Jones sought to take the earlier studies and report on the improvements made in quality, safety and efficiency since. The results identified as positive, following the trend that each study before it had implied.

Overall, the findings from the four reviews had astonishingly positive results, which concluded that each one believed health information technology has contributed to the improvements and enhancements in the quality and safety of care.

In regard to the future of health IT 
The study implies that the future of enhanced technology often comes with unintended consequences, but there is enough evidence to show the chance of results remaining positive is very high.

"There are good reasons to believe this trend will accelerate going forward, given that a great deal of work is taking in place, in parallel, to reduce risks, improve safety outcomes, and improve the way technology is used as it evolves. However, it will be important to monitor for those unintended consequences to ensure that the full potential of the technology is realized."


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