Improving Health Care: Why a Dose of IT May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation-10/01/07-Information technology (IT) is a major driver of innovation and economic growth.1 Health IT promises to revolutionize health care by improving the quality and containing the costs of care. For the American health care system to benefi t from advances in IT,it must adopt electronic health records (EHRs). An EHR2 contains the complete medical history of a patient, including a full listing of illnesses,laboratory tests, treatments, drugs administered, and allergies.
Health IT is not just about merely digitizing medical records to create a paperless office, although doing this will achieve considerable savings—it is also about fundamentally transforming the health care system so that both doctors and patients have access to information and tools that allow them to better manage their care. This new IT-enabled model of health care has the potential to improve preventive health care and chronic disease management and reward medical practices with financial incentives for effective and efficient care. It has the potentialto give health care researchers the data they need to identify and deliver best practice care and continuously improve the quality of health care. Finally, health IT has the potential to empower consumers to better understand and manage their own health care conditions, needs, and treatments.
Recognizing the importance of IT to health care, President Bush issued an executiveorder in 2004 calling for the rapid deployment of a nationwide interoperable health information technology network, including EHRs for all Americans, within 10 years. The U.S. Department ofHealth and Human Services (HHS) has led this effort. Unfortunately, the results of the national health information network initiative to date have been disappointing. So far, for example, HHS hasnot established comprehensive standards for the network.

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