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Report Says HIT Efforts Falling Short

January 9, 2009
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Current healthcare IT efforts will not achieve “medical leaders' vision of healthcare in the 21st century, and may even set back the cause,” says a new report from the Washington-based National Research Council.

The report, based partially on site visits to eight U.S. medical centers, concludes that greater emphasis should be placed on decision-making and problem-solving support.

The report states that though the institutions visited were found to have “a strong commitment to delivering quality healthcare, the IT systems seen by the committee fall short of what will be needed to realize IOM's vision.” (In 2001, the Institute of Medicine laid out a vision of 21st century healthcare.)

The report describes, “difficulties with data sharing and integration, deployment of new IT capabilities, and large-scale data management. Most importantly, current health care IT systems offer little cognitive support.”

Many care providers, the report states, said data entered into their IT systems was used “mainly to comply with regulations or to defend against lawsuits, rather than to improve care. As a result, valuable time and energy is spent managing data as opposed to understanding the patient.”

The report concludes that government, healthcare providers, and healthcare IT vendors should embrace measurable improvements in quality of care as the driving rationale for adopting health care IT, and should “avoid programs that focus on adoption of specific clinical applications. In the long term, success will depend upon accelerating interdisciplinary research in biomedical informatics, computer science, social science, and healthcare engineering.”

The sites visited for the report were the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; HCA TriStar and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, both in Nashville, Tenn.; Partners HealthCare System in Boston; Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City; University of California-San Francisco Medical Center; and Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California.

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