Promoting health information technology (IT) has been a common thread in the campaigns of the 2008 presidential candidates’ health reform proposals. It is proposed as a means of achieving efficiency, improving quality and cutting costs in the delivery of health care. In addition, there is bipartisan support in both houses of Congress for expanding health IT. Yet, one bill that would do so remains stalled in the House, another in the Senate.
This toolkit, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will help you understand how health information technology (IT) is slowly changing health care, and how analysts disagree about the value of some technologies. We offer an introduction to issues such as protecting patient privacy and the cost of new technologies. This resource also offers story ideas, selected experts with contact information, selected websites of interest and a glossary.
Wider use of health information technology has been touted as one way to improve the quality of care and reduce medical errors, while reducing the continued rapid growth of health care spending. Providers across the country are already adopting new health IT systems, and many patients have welcomed the trend. Other providers say they can’t afford the large upfront costs involved, and some analysts question whether health IT will save any money at all.
Health care information about individual patients is one of the least automated aspects of the U.S. economy. Promoting greater access to secure, easily shared electronic health records for all Americans has strong support from the Administration and both parties in Congress.
The health care sector has languished behind almost all other industries in adopting information technology, which has the potential of vastly improving quality. For example, a variety of studies have found that prescribing drugs through a system known as computer physician order entry, compared with a handwritten prescription, greatly reduces the incidence of the wrong medication being prescribed or the wrong dose dispensed. There are significant barriers to the adoption of information technologies in health care. These barriers include technical and infrastructure obstacles, initial implementation costs, provider resistance, current reimbursement structures and a lack of more uniform standards that would allow products from different vendors to work together.