The interpretation of quality health care varies with each person. Some place emphasis on the ability to access various treatments without interference. Others value the feature of being able to simply select one’s provider. Quality health care, according to the Institute of Medicine (2001), can be defined as care that is “safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient and equitable” (p. 3). Furthermore, it should account for, in detail, a patient’s medical history, and improve overall patient well-being.
Unfortunately, the quality of health care in America is flawed. Information technology (IT) offers the potential to address the industry’s most pressing dilemmas: care fragmentation, medical errors, and rising costs. The leading example of this is the electronic health record (EHR). An EHR, as explained by HealthIT.gov (n.d.), is a digital version of a patient’s paper chart. It includes, but is not limited to, medical history, diagnoses, medications, and treatment plans. The EHR, then, serves as a resource that aids clinicians in decision-making by providing comprehensive patient information.
Though the benefits of IT are numerous, successful adoption into healthcare has been difficult. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (2004) states, “barriers include the cost and complexity of IT implementation, which necessitates significant work process and cultural changes” (p. 158). These challenges, sadly, have resulted in a series of ineffective systems.
The forthcoming passages will illustrate initiatives and barriers to adopting health IT (HIT), as well as critical factors relating to successful adoption. The goal is to establish a realistic guide to increasing the possibility of successful implementation.
Health care fragmentation, as interpreted by Einer Elhauge (2010), Petrie Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, occurs when a patient receives poorly managed care. Such care exists on many levels. During a hospital stay, for example, a patient may express an aspirin allergy to a nurse who, in turn, does not effectively document or communicate that allergy. This can result in the following nurse administering aspirin. Beyond a hospital stay, a patient may also experience a lack of coordination among providers. A surgeon could administer a post-operation, high-sugar therapy on a diabetic patient without consulting the endocrinologist. Fragmentation, as highlighted by these examples, can lead to care decisions that place patients in jeopardy.
Each patient encounter produces a wealth of data. That data, as Elhauge (2010) reveals, has typically remained with its respective provider due to a lack of communication among physicians with common patients. Healthcare payers arguably maintain the most patient data: pharmacy claims, medical and surgical claims, health risk assessments, etc. Unfortunately, payers also do not equip their provider base with such information, thus...