Over the past four years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded millions of dollars in incentive money to hospitals and physician groups to install electronic health record (EHR) systems – but are EHRs and other type of health care information technology making health care better, safer, and more cost efficient?
Absolutely, says a news release from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the international association of health care technology professionals, health IT companies, and government and non-governmental organizations, which has created the HIMSS Health IT Value Suite, a database of evidence demonstrating the value of health care IT.
So far, of the more than 500 cases in the Health IT Value Suite, 85 percent reported that health care IT investments resulted in improvements in quality of care, safety, or efficiency, and 65 percent reported cost savings and improvements in financial efficiency.
The Health IT Value Suite categorizes the value of health care IT in five domains:
• Patient satisfaction, including improved patient communication, higher patient satisfaction scores, and better internal communication.
• Treatment, quality of care, and clinical safety, including reductions in medical errors and patient readmissions .
• Electronic information and data sharing, including improvements in quality measurement reporting and greater use of evidence-based guidelines.
• Prevention and patient education, including improved tracking of diseases, higher immunization rates, and increased patient compliance with treatment plans.
• Savings, including decreases in accounts receivable days and better inventory control.
Categorizing Vast Amounts of Data
The Society unveiled its Health IT Value Suite at a July 16 press conference in Washington, D.C., that coincided with the Government Health IT Conference and Exhibit.
“As health care providers continue to implement IT solutions, it is increasingly critical to be able to evaluate technology’s real impact,” said HIMSS Executive Vice President Carla Smith at the news conference. “Pinpointing the clinical and financial impact of health IT investments is complex.”
The database includes peer-reviewed research studies, HIMSS materials, resources from Health IT conferences and presentations, newspaper articles, and vendor-supplied information, which HIMSS then review for data quality.
The Society organized the information into 26 types of systems, such as electronic prescribing, online logistics management, and clinical decision-making support, said Pat Wise, HIMSS Vice President of Health Information Systems.
‘What’s the Value?’
“We are able to put a vocabulary and framework around value,” Wise told HealthBiz Decoded. “Being able to do that and have that kind of data at our fingertips will help us respond to stakeholders, as well as those who are reviewing incentives for electronic health records and congressional members asking ‘what’s the value’?”
The information is not vendor-specific, noted Wise, even though company case studies are included in the database. For example, she said, the Value Suite analyzes data on the value of EHRs generally, not the value of various vendors’ EHR systems.
The database is available to HIMSS members, as well as other parties interested in health care IT value, such as state government officials and legislative representatives, Wise said. Society members can email the organization to request information from the Health IT Value Suite.
“We will be able to give specific examples of how others who have invested in technology have gained value,” Wise said.
In addition, she noted, the Health IT Value Suite will also capture lessons learned regarding health care IT investments that did not provide expected value so other organizations will know what not to do.
Starting in September, the Society will release weekly updates on the HIMSS Value Suite highlighting data and trends on the value of health care IT.