Hospitals overpay for health IT when systems don't connect

To ensure that technologies and data can be used effectively in patient care, providers should invest in systems management.

Healthcare organizations can end up significantly overpaying for new healthcare technologies when they don't have integrated systems such as electronic health records, according to experts at Johns Hopkins.

The U.S. spends more on health IT than many other countries. Meanwhile, attitudes about interoperability are mixed. One recent survey found most providers (75%) think integrated systems are valuable, but that's lower than in other countries, which average out at 88%. 

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To ensure that technologies and data can be used effectively in patient care, providers should invest in systems management, Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine; Sezin Palmer, mission area executive for national health at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab; and Alan Ravitz, Ph.D., chief engineer of national health mission at the physics lab, write in the Harvard Business Review.

For instance, many new hospital beds include a number of sensors to monitor patient conditions, alerting staff to risk of bedsores and other potential complications. However, at one of Johns Hopkins’ hospitals, the data from those sensors is unusable because the system cannot read it.

The solution? Healthcare organizations must take advantage of their purchasing power to buy systems that can connect. 

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“Healthcare is woefully underengineered,” they write. “Using systems engineering, we can integrate technologies and build hospitals and clinics that ensure consistently safe, high-quality and efficient care.”

Interoperability efforts can be customized to fit provider needs, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has offered guidelines to measure progress. Investment from both the public and private sectors will be key to ensuring that health IT functions effectively, and that it is safe for patients.

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