Health information technology improves the timely availability of diagnostic information
One important advantage of health information technology (health IT) is the ability to make clinical data instantly available to health care providers. Such information availability is important, not only for physicians to make medical decisions in real time, but also for public health experts dealing with disease outbreaks and disasters. A new study finds that health IT systems do indeed improve the timely availability of clinical information. However, improvements depend on the level of sophistication of each health IT system.
For their study, researchers looked back at electronic data from approximately 30 million office visits in a large, prepaid, integrated delivery system. The study examined three types of health IT systems: basic, intermediate, and advanced. To assess timeliness of information, the study measured the time between the visit completion and entry of the visit diagnosis into the delivery system's central databases. In 2004, when only basic health IT was available in these office settings, 10 percent of office visits had the diagnosis entered on the same day as the visit. The remaining diagnoses were entered within a week's time of the office visit. In addition, physicians recorded diagnoses in paper medical records in 85 percent of these visits.
As offices migrated to more advanced forms of health IT over the next 3 years, the timeliness of medical information improved dramatically. For example, 85 percent of all office visits had a diagnosis recorded on the day of the visit. By the end of the study period, physicians used the health IT systems in nearly all visits, with diagnoses recorded electronically in 98 percent of visits. The researchers conclude that health IT systems may improve quality of care by providing timely clinical information at the point of care and coordinating information across the range of health care practitioners involved with a patient's care. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15280).
See "Evolving health information technology and the timely availability of visit diagnoses from ambulatory visits: A natural experiment in an integrated delivery system," by Naomi S. Bardach, M.D., Jie Huang, Ph.D., Richard Brand, Ph.D., and John Hsu, M.D., M.B.A., M.S.C.E., in the online BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 9(35), 2009.
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