Health IT can be a good investment, but not in a vacuum

Health IT is likely worth the return on investment, but simply owning an EHR doesn't automatically reduce costs and improve quality, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The researchers, from the University of Washington and elsewhere, studied 675 articles on Health IT and economics. They found that the studies reached different conclusions about the impact of health IT on quality and cost, depending on what was studied and the variables involved, such as whether clinical decision support tools were used and how well the physicians were trained in the EHR system.   

It was also hard to assess the overall economic impact of EHRs on healthcare delivery. The researchers found that very few studies actually tried to measure the economic benefit of health IT; they also warned that until there was some balance and alignment between the investment in health IT and benefit, the organizations that will benefit most from health IT are integrated systems with both a payer and a provider arm. 

The researchers recommended that to reap an economic benefit from health IT, providers should undertake skillful planning and implementation when they adopt an EHR, as well as incorporating system design, software functionality and technical prowess. They also recommended that the return on investment be studied further.

"We recommend concentrated efforts to define an operational data model for healthcare organizations that will include variables needed to measure the impact of health IT at the local organizational level and that can be aggregated at the national level," they noted.

To learn more:
- here's the abstract