Research examines impact, trends of health IT since HITECH implementation

A special February issue of the journal Health Services Research sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT examines the health information technology landscape, focusing on various trends and statistics, including adoption and performance.

In a commentary introducing the issue, Rainu Kaushal, Director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy (CHiP) and a professor of medical informatics at Weill Cornell Medical College, and David Blumenthal, former National Coordinator for health IT and current president of the Commonwealth Fund, note that despite (or because of) the "huge growth" experienced by health IT since implementation of the HITECH Act in 2009, many questions remain about health IT's capabilities and impact.

"What are health IT's effects on quality, efficiency and patient safety?" Kaushal and Blumenthal write. "And what are the organizational, environmental and financial factors that mediate its effects? A lot of debate still persists on these topics, which is healthy, but too often informed by anecdotal reports rather than scientific evidence."

One study--by Commonwealth Fund researchers Anne-Marie Audet, David Squires and Michelle Doty--looks into primary care trends with regard to the use of health IT between 2009 and 2012. The researchers conclude that the federal government's efforts to increase adoption were effective, adding that "delivery system and payment reforms and federally funded extension programs could offer promising pathways for further diffusion." Still, they also found there to be a "digital divide" between large and small physician practices.

Another study--by Joshua Vest, Ph.D. of Well Cornell Medical College and L. Michelle Issel of the College of Health and Human Services at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte--examines how state and local health departments share public health data. Vest and Issel determine that information services at public health agencies must be improved if such entities are to remain relevant in healthcare.

A third study--by ONC officials, including former National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari--looks at the evolution of the health IT regional extension center program, determining that such entities have "made substantial progress" in helping primary care providers with both adoption and meeting Meaningful Use standards with regard to EHRs.

New National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo says the "next chapter" of the ONC's work will focus on harnessing health IT for, among other things, population health: "[T]o see the promise of health information technology in the clinical interface for the health systems and the population and community at large to come to fruition," she said at a recent Health IT Policy Committee meeting.

To learn more:
- check out the journal

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