Health IT and Health Care Quality


Better information means better health care

Traditionally, your primary care physician has been expected to act as the central hub for all your medical records, including laboratory results, tests, and records sent from other doctors. But sometimes — when you change doctors, when providers have out-of-date information, or simply when procedures aren’t followed correctly — this system can break down. Health information technology (health IT) offers a better way of establishing that hub.

Consider for a moment all the different types of information that make up your medical record and all the different places that information can come from:

  • Medical history, including diagnoses, medications, and allergies, from current and past doctors, emergency facilities, and school clinics
  • Immunization history, from current and past doctors, school clinics, workplace clinics, health departments, pharmacies, and emergency facilities
  • Laboratory results from physician office labs, hospital labs, and independent labs
  • Medical imaging, from a doctor’s office, radiology offices, hospital radiology departments, and independent imaging centers

A single source

The promise of electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs) is a comprehensive record that includes all of this information: a record that is up to date, complete, accurate, and in the hands of your doctor or you and your family when it’s needed. That makes all of your providers more knowledgeable about you and better able to work with you to make more informed decisions about your health.

The main goal of health IT is to improve the quality of your care. For instance, a study of Texas hospitals found that those with more advanced health IT showed fewer deaths and fewer problems with care (also called complications) among their patients compared with patients at hospitals with less advanced health IT.

EHRs can enhance routine medical care by reminding your doctor about the timing of appropriate preventive services for your general well-being or about specific issues related to managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. For example, a study by Better Health Greater Cleveland [PDF – 310 KB]found that at facilities using EHRs, 51 percent of patients with diabetes received all the recommended care for their condition, compared with 7% at facilities using paper-only records.

Much like the EHR, the PHR can also be an electronic storage “hub” for all your most important health information. It’s possible for you to create your own PHR using consumer-friendly software and online services and use it to improve your own health. Your PHR is all about you; you decide whether to create one in the first place, and if so, what to put in it.

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