ONC review of health IT studies shows they're mostly positive

A new review of articles on the impact of health information technology finds that 92 percent of qualified studies published since 2007 reached "conclusions that were positive overall." This is not exactly a big surprise, since the authors of the Health Affairs paper include outgoing National Health IT Coordinator David Blumenthal and several of his colleagues.

Blumenthal has been harshly critical of a recent Stanford University study that casts doubt on the ability of electronic health records to improve the quality of care. The ONC chief said that problems with the data and an outdated time frame led to flawed results.

The Health Affairs paper analyzes the results of 154 studies--two-thirds of them conducted in the U.S.--that met the researchers' rigorous criteria. They found that 96 studies--or 62 percent--were positive, meaning that health IT was associated with improvement in one or more aspects of care, while no aspects were worse off. Forty-eight studies--or 30 percent--were "mixed-positive," meaning they showed some negative aspects of using health IT, but were positive overall. The other studies reported primarily negative findings. Many of those, and the negative results in the "mixed-positive" studies, had to do with provider satisfaction or implementation issues, according to the researchers.

In an accompanying table that evaluated outcomes measures of health IT, it was notable that the largest number of metrics, by far, related to efficiency--and those were mainly positive. By contrast, in measures of provider satisfaction, negative and mixed-positive results far outweighed positive ones. In measures of health IT's impact on care processes, patient satisfaction and patient safety, the results tilted toward the positive end of the spectrum.

To learn more:
- read the Health Affairs study
- check out this article on Blumenthal's criticism of the Stanford study