Industry professionals create framework for measuring HIT value

Healthcare professionals have created a framework for measuring health information technology with a goal of making "HIT evaluations more relevant to the current needs of the healthcare system," according to a paper published at the American Journal of Managed Care.

In the paper, sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the researchers--from RAND Health, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital--say that HIT should take into account three principles.

Those principles are:

  • Value includes costs and benefits: Value cannot be found through cost analysis alone, the report's authors say. While costs are important, they do not reveal what the health benefit to patients may be nor do they assess the potential benefits of the technology or system. Studies must be sure to measure both, they say.
  • Value accrues over time: New tools have short-term costs and long-term costs, and the same holds true for the benefits they provide. While capturing the impact of technology over the long term is not "feasible for any study," the authors say, a study must allow for enough time to show the upside of having the new tool compared to not having it.
  • Value depends on stakeholder's perspective: Perception varies from person to person and practice to practice, the authors say. This must be a consideration because differing opinions could impact conclusions about the value of the study. "Ideally, all evaluations of HIT would take the perspective of all relevant stakeholders," according to the paper.

"Making these changes may require especially imaginative study designs, and research teams that have both quantitative and qualitative expertise," according to the authors.

They also add that while making changes may not be easy, if "research is to align with the current needs of the healthcare system, researchers should take on this challenge and produce results that not only prove what is possible, but also show how to achieve it."

A majority of healthcare executives foresee a return on investment in population health management programs within three to four years, according to a recent survey by KPMG. Twenty percent of the 296 survey respondents expect investments in health IT, data and analytic tools to pay off in one or two years. Another 36 percent foresee such investments paying off in three to four years; 29 percent expect it to take five or more years. Only 14 percent do not expect to recoup their costs at all.

Still, doctors who use electronic health record systems are only slightly more likely than those who don't to receive the patient information they need for coordinated care, according to research recently published in Medical Care. For that study, researchers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality surveyed 4,500 office-based physicians and found that only about 33 percent used an EHR system and shared patient health information electronically. Thirty-nine of respondents had an EHR system but did not share patient data electronically, and about 25 percent did neither.

To learn more:
- check out the paper