Uneven Health IT Adoption Has Hindered Efforts To Boost Care

The nation's limited implementation of health IT systems has hindered quality improvement efforts, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund, Modern Healthcare reports.

However, the authors said that programs aimed at boosting health IT adoption under the federal health reform law have the potential to improve health care quality and efficiency (McKinney, Modern Healthcare, 10/18).

Report Details

The report, conducted by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System, evaluated the U.S. health care system on 42 indicators of quality, access, efficiency, equity and healthy lives.

The scorecard compared average U.S. performance rates to those achieved by the top 10% of U.S. states, regions, health plans and health care providers, as well as top-performing countries (Byers, CMIO, 10/18).

Key Findings

The U.S. health care system scored 64 out of 100 on key measures of performance and 53 out of 100 on measures of efficiency, indicating a relatively low use of electronic health records and high administrative costs, according to the report.

Despite some areas of improvement, including public reporting of quality data on federal websites, quality of care still varies widely across the U.S. and has failed to keep pace with other countries (Commonwealth Fund release, 10/18).

The report noted that in seven other industrialized countries, 94% or more of physician practices have implemented EHR systems.

The authors wrote that health care providers in other countries are more likely than those in the U.S. to have "advanced functions to provide decision support and enable information to flow with patients across sites of care" (Modern Healthcare, 10/18).

Potential for Improvement Under Health Reform Law

The authors noted that data from the report were collected before the federal health reform law was enacted (CMIO, 10/18).

David Blumenthal -- chair of the commission and former National Coordinator for Health IT -- said that the reform law and "investments in information systems offer the potential for rapid progress in areas like adoption and use of [health IT], safer care and premature deaths from preventable complications" (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 10/18).

For example, the report noted that greater health IT use could lower rates of certain adverse events, such as medication errors, and help health care providers improve care coordination and measure performance (Modern Healthcare, 10/18).

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