Advancing the Adoption of Health IT to Improve Quality and Value

November 24, 2008


Health IT has the potential to play a critical role in improving health care quality, value, and efficiency by allowing providers and others to more easily manage, exchange, and integrate medical information in order to improve patient outcomes. The economic impact of broad health IT adoption has been estimated at $80 billion annually in net cost savings.

The greater availability and exchange of health IT could lead to enhanced quality assessment and reporting, tracking of health outcomes, and provider performance feedback. Such capabilities will in turn help engage consumers more meaningfully in decisions about their care, reform current payment models to reward superior care, and improve provider performance.

Despite these apparent advantages, the rate of health IT adoption continues to be slow, and the actual achievement of substantial cost savings has been less certain.

Current estimates of physician health IT adoption indicate that only 17-29% of physicians around the country employ either a fully functional or a more basic electronic medical record (EMR) in their practice. The reasons often given for this lack of widespread adoption include acquisition and installation costs, the inability to recover such costs through current payment systems, and lack of interoperability standards, among others. Current low rates of adoption are an obstacle to the establishment of an urgently needed national quality measurement and reporting enterprise. Maximizing the potential of health IT adoption to support performance measurement will likely depend on prioritizing technology standards development and the effective development and use of demonstrable value cases for such adoption.