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Three IT Capabilities Key to Improving Patient Care with Information Technology

COLUMBIA, MO – With more than 1,000 health information technology vendors to choose from — up from 60 since 2008 — hospitals can easily fall prey to dysfunctional systems that fail to meet the goal of improving patient care, according to a new study.

In light of that, the article published recently in Health Care Management Review offers information to make it easier to navigate the crowded marketplace.

Research from the University of Missouri School of Medicine has identified three IT capabilities hospitals must have to assure higher rates of employee productivity and flexibility which, in turn, improves patient care.

"Health information technologies have a great potential to improve patient safety and reduce cost of care," said lead researcher Naresh Khatri, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Health Management and Informatics. "However, the benefits of these services have remained far from realized due to a lack of proper implementation. This study found that specific IT capabilities boosted employee efforts and flexibility, leading to improved patient care."

For the report, Khatri and his colleagues surveyed representatives from more than 450 hospitals across the United States, questioning them about their hospitals' IT capabilities, quality of patient care, and the productivity and flexibility of their employees, with "flexibility" defined as employees' willingness to take on increasing workloads during challenging times.

Survey answers were then used to test whether the relationship of certain IT capabilities and the quality of patient care delivered could be controlled by employee productivity. Results indicate that specific IT capabilities had significant positive correlations with employee productivity, leading to improvement in the quality of patient care at U.S. hospitals.

The study found that the three IT capabilities U.S. hospitals needed for more productive employees include:

  • having a competent and visionary chief information officer,
  • an infrastructure designed to develop IT applications that improve patient care and business processes, and
  • on-site professionals with expertise developing cost-effective IT programs that support clinical and business needs of the organization.

"To deliver exemplary care, healthcare workers need technologies that can support them in their interactions with patients," Khatri said. "This means moving from clinician-centric to patient-centric IT models."

According to the study, hospitals with greater IT capabilities tend to get more out of their IT investments because they can identify more appropriate, potent, and cost-effective health information technologies that can be deployed more effectively.

“The chief information officer’s IT vision and the professional expertise and professionalism of IT staff are important IT capabilities in U.S. hospitals,” the study authors concluded.