Health IT’s Effect on Outcomes, Engagement, Efficiency

It’s a myth, or is it? Health IT is leading to better patient outcomes when used throughout the care setting. The proliferation of mobile devices, apps and technologies used in healthcare have some proponents of the solutions claiming the technology helps deliver care more efficiently and improve patient safety. In fact, as cited by the health IT vendor Cerner and as reported by HIMSS in its mobile technology survey, “clinicians are rapidly adopting mobile health technology with 45 percent of clinicians using mobile technology to communicate across teams, collect data at the bedside, monitor patients and use bar code scanners on mobile devices.”

Mobile health and healthcare technologies are changing the way healthcare is practiced and how care is delivered. The goal, or point of the developments in tech, is better care for patients anytime, anywhere. That’s one argument, of course. Another argument is that the solutions are simply designed to help clinicians be more efficient, to improve their workflows and improve security (but based on news of recent hacks and breaches, the case might be made for paper being more secure than some of the tech solutions currently being utilized, but that’s an entirely different topic).

Nevertheless, the “traditional” care setting is changing and it continues to do so. Clearly, there’s little doubt of this. For example, one of the current and possibly most game-changing developments is patient engagement technologies designed to bring consumer patients further into the healthcare conversation. Like it or not, aware or unaware, patients are interacting with their health data and their outcomes through the use of solutions such as wearable technology and smart phone apps. If nothing else, people are attracted to these new tools like fish to shiny bait; consumers living in a consumerist-driven society like to show off their flashy gadgets and devices.

As pointed out by Extreme Networks, a provider of high-performance, open network innovations for enterprise, service providers and Internet exchanges, “Healthcare is often not an early adopter to new technology, but we are already seeing mobility adoption in hospitals. New medical devices, coupled with high-performing applications, are enabling better patient care and a healthier society.

“All of these breakthroughs are at a great benefit to the patient as more devices and apps breed collaboration and the analysis of the mountains of patient data we are collecting.”

Additionally, according to HIMSS, 70 percent of healthcare leaders say that clinicians use mobile technology to view patient data. “It is also estimated that 17 million consumer-grade wearable devices will ship this year (2014), placing these monitoring tools directly in the hands of the patient. And with the deployment of strong wireless networks, hospitals are supporting a holistic mobile-enabled patient care-experience that is providing strides in medical advancement,” Extreme Networks states.

The most important point made here is “placing these monitoring tools directly in the hands of the patient.” Improved patient care and improved outcomes is driving this change and the reason practice and hospital leaders are promoting the use of the technology.

However, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), programs like meaningful use – the primary driver behind current patient engagement efforts – of health IT is improving quality, safety and efficiency outcomes, according to a recent study by RAND.

According to the RAND report cited by ONC, “There is growing anecdotal evidence of the benefits of health IT.”

The report explicitly states the effects of health IT varied by type of outcome; but were mostly positive overall. For example:

  • 78 percent of health IT studies reported at least some positive effects on safety outcomes
  • More than 75 percent of studies of health IT alerts and reminders reported positive effects on quality of care
  • 85 percent of the studies on utilization found that the effects of health IT led to an appropriate increase or decrease in utilization

Additionally, “meaningful use functionalities have predominantly positive effects on quality, safety and efficiency outcomes.”

That said, though definitive information is still lacking, several surveys and reports (more than are mentioned here) suggest that the use health IT solutions in healthcare are having a direct impact on patient care outcomes and are creating efficiencies overall. Time will tell, of course, if this is the case, but it’s certainly hard not to credit the technology for generating greater awareness – and more patient engagement – of the benefits of the technology and its impact on practices and hospitals.

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