Health Information Technology Integration

The integration of health information technology (IT) into primary care includes a variety of electronic methods that are used to manage information about people's health and health care, for both individual patients and groups of patients. The use of health IT can improve the quality of care, even as it makes health care more cost effective.

AHRQ's health information technology (IT) initiative is part of the Nation's strategy to put information technology to work in health care. The integration of health IT into primary care includes a variety of electronic methods that are used to manage information about people's health and health care, for both individual patients and groups of patients.

In primary care, examples of health IT include the following:

  • Clinical decision support.
  • Computerized disease registries.
  • Computerized provider order entry.
  • Consumer health IT applications.
  • Electronic medical record systems (EMRs, EHRs, and PHRs).
  • Electronic prescribing.
  • Telehealth.

AHRQ's National Resource Center for Health IT serves as the link between the health care community and the researchers and experts who are on the front lines of health IT. The National Resource Center encourages adoption of health IT by providing the latest tools, best practices, and research results from this unique real-world laboratory. These health IT resources include:

Why Is Health IT Important?

Health IT makes it possible for health care providers to better manage patient care through the secure use and sharing of health information. By developing secure and private electronic health records for most Americans and making health information available electronically when and where it is needed, health IT can improve the quality of care, even as it makes health care more cost effective.

With the help of health IT, health care providers will have:

  • Accurate and complete information about a patient's health. That way, providers can give the best possible care, whether during a routine visit or a medical emergency.
  • The ability to better coordinate the care given. This is especially important if a patient has a serious medical condition.
  • A way to securely share information with patients and their family caregivers over the Internet, for patients who opt for this convenience. This means patients and their families can more fully take part in decisions about their health care.
  • Information to help diagnose health problems sooner, reduce medical errors, and provide safer care at lower costs.

How Can Health IT Be Put Into Action?

There are many ways that health IT can be used to improve the quality of primary care services. General information about implementing health IT can be found at AHRQ's National Resource Center for Health IT.

Information about clinical decision support can be found at http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/prevention-chronic-care/decision/index.html.

Information about the role of health IT in the transformation of primary care practices into patient-centered medical homes can be found at the AHRQ PCMH Resource Center

The following AHRQ Annual Conference presentations on health IT are also available:

Patient-Centered Care and Health IT – 2011

Building the Health IT Infrastructure: How Do We Get There? A Panel Discussion – 2009

Getting to Meaningful Use of Health IT: Experiences in Redesigning Workflow in the Ambulatory Setting – 2009

Experience in Improving Health Care Decisionmaking With Health IT: Impacts on Quality and Safety – 2009