IT systems linked to better outcomes

Patients are more likely to have better health outcomes if they are treated at hospitals using information technology (IT) systems, according to a new study from Florida State University in Tallahassee.

The study compared overall IT adoption with patient discharge data at 98 hospitals across Florida, which provided the most comprehensive analysis to date of the relationship between information technology use and health outcomes.1 The study found that the more information systems adopted at a given hospital, the better that hospital performed on a variety of important patient outcome measures, says Nir Menachemi, PhD, MPH, lead author of the study and director of the Center on Patient Safety at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee.

Menachemi says the results were particularly interesting because the hospitals were of various types, not the academic medical centers in which IT systems have most commonly been studied. Because academic medical centers are not typical of most U.S. hospitals, it was not clear if the results of those studies could be generalized to hospitals across the country, he says. "Our study is the first to link the use of IT to improved outcomes across a large number of community hospitals," Menachemi says. "The evidence we found is a compelling reason for hospitals to make sure they are utilizing the most up-to-date information systems.''

Deaths as a result of postoperative blood infections have doubled in the United States over the past 20 years. However, such deaths decreased for patients in hospitals using IT systems in the treatment process, as did deaths from postoperative respiratory failure and other infections. Such conditions can be prevented when clinicians have:

  • up-to-date patient information;
  • standardized medical order sets;
  • evidence-based guidelines on best treatment procedures.

Menachemi says he found that hospitals properly using IT networks are best able to ensure that clinicians receive critical information at the point of care to assist physicians in adhering to proven clinical guidelines. [Editor's note: Contact Menachemi at (850) 644-2362 or nir.menachemi@med.fsu.edu.]

Reference

1. Menachemi N, Saunders C, Chukmaitov A, et al. Hospital adoption of information technologies and improved patient safety: A study of 98 hospitals in Florida. J Healthc Manag 2007; 52:398-409.