Acknowledging that the body of scientific evidence on the efficacy of health IT still is rather scant, national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal is anticipating a flood of new research as a result of the federal stimulus that encourages wide adoption of electronic health records. To date, most of the research has focused on health IT in specific environments, such as a single hospital, physician office or integrated delivery network, but the stimulus will help put EHRs in new settings that haven't been studied.
"We are going to be hungry for how to implement health information technology the most efficiently to gain the greatest value for the health IT investment," Blumenthal told a gathering convened by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality last week. "We're at that transition that we see every time a new technology is moved out from the laboratory."
Blumenthal advocated clinical decision support technology that encourages continuous quality improvement by delivering research data and new treatment information to the point of care, easily accessible by clinicians. "One thing we haven't done is apply the scientific method in the practice of healthcare and medicine," he said.
But he and other health IT experts at the same AHRQ conference cautioned that the road to achieving "meaningful use" of EHRs will be long and fraught with all sorts of danger.