Functionality vital to success of health IT, Cleveland Clinic CIO says

Cleveland Clinic CIO C. Martin Harris believes that technology in healthcare must have functionality and the ability to truly interact with patients for it to have any value.

"If you go online and the only thing you can do is see test results, it's a minimal value for both the physician and the patient," Harris tells Computerworld in a recent interview. "When you have a tool where you can share all the information and you can use that tool to alert both the physician and the patient to something that needs to happen, that's a shared experience."

The healthcare industry, as a whole, has a long way to go before it can claim that technology truly makes a difference, according to Harris. Referring to the Meaningful Use incentive program to adopt electronic health records, he tells Computerworld that there's a distinction between simply implementing such tools and actually getting value out of them.

"My sense is, we're about 30 percent toward that goal," Harris says. "But when I say 30 percent, I mean fully functional … that you've actually fully implemented [an EHR] and are getting rid of other things."

Research published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine determined that the Meaningful Use program--while successful at getting physicians to use EHRs--is not necessarily associated with quality improvements for patients. The researchers studied the treatment of adult outpatients at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and affiliated ambulatory practices during a 90-day reporting period in 2012 to assess if there were quality improvements on seven measures for five chronic diseases: hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, asthma, and depression.

Of 858 physicians assessed, 63 percent were "meaningful users" of their EHRs. However, there was no association between attaining Meaningful Use and quality. Meaningful Use was "marginally" better for diabetes and hypertension, marginally worse for asthma and depression, and no better or worse for the remainder.

To learn more:
- read Harris' interview in Computerworld

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