Report: Quality should drive rationale for health IT efforts

Current efforts aimed at the nationwide deployment of health care information technology (IT) will not be sufficient to achieve medical leaders' vision of health care in the 21st century and may even set back the cause, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report, based partially on site visits to eight U.S. medical centers considered leaders in the field of health care IT, concludes that greater emphasis should be placed on information technology that provides health care workers and patients with cognitive support, such as assistance in decision-making and problem-solving.


In 2001, the Institute of Medicine laid out a vision of 21st century health care that involves care which is safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient, and equitable. Many aspects of this vision involve information technology, such as having access to comprehensive data on patients, tools to integrate evidence into practice, and the ability to highlight problems as they arise. To see how leaders in U.S. health care use computing and information management in providing care, the committee that wrote the new report visited eight medical centers:

•· University of Pittsburgh Medical Center;

•· Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.;

•· HCA TriStar and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both in Nashville, Tenn.;

•· Partners HealthCare System in Boston;

•· Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City;

•· University of California-San Francisco Medical Center; and

•· Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California.


The report identifies several principles for improving health care IT. In the short term, government, health care providers, and health care IT vendors should embrace measurable improvements in quality of care as the driving rationale for adopting health care IT, and should avoid programs that focus on adoption of specific clinical applications. In the long term, success will depend upon accelerating interdisciplinary research in biomedical informatics, computer science, social science, and health care engineering. Among other actions, the recommendations encourage senior management at health care organizations to organize incentives, processes and supporting infrastructure to encourage, support and respond to opportunities for clinical performance gains.


(SOURCE: AHA News Now,, January 12, 2009)