News Feature | February 18, 2015

Can The Value of HIT Be Assessed?

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Healthcare Revenue Cycle Priorities

A new study investigates how the value of HIT has been and, more importantly, should be assessed.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2010 dedicated some $27 billion to further the use of health information technology, setting off an avalanche of HIT investment and installation across the nation. Early studies documenting positive effects of HIT on quality of care, patient safety, and cost efficiency all pointed at the HITECH Act as valuable, suggesting HIT had the potential to facilitate substantial improvements in quality of care while simultaneously reducing healthcare costs.

But now a new study has questioned the valuation of HIT.

According to Health Dive, the current study does not examine the value of health IT per se, but instead examine how other studies determine value, and highlights the deficiencies of those other studies. According to the study, the lack of any kind of standard measuring tool across the other IT studies is causing the other value-based studies to draw incomplete or incorrect conclusions.

Sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the paper examines the issue across three key contexts: value includes both costs and benefits; value accrues over time; and value depends on which stakeholder's perspective is used.

In December, Health IT Outcomes reported that HHS released the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which will serve as a strategy for the federal government and “represents a coordinated and focused effort to appropriately collect, share, and use interoperable health information to improve healthcare, individual, community and public health, and advance research across the federal government and in collaboration with private industry,” according to HHS.

With the increasing emphasis on implementing and integrating HIT into patient care, it raises the question of the intrinsic and extrinsic value of HIT in the overall patient care and patient outcome data as well as its fiscal relationship to overall healthcare costs.

“Healthcare organizations all over the United States are adopting health information technology (HIT), yet recent studies of HIT are often unhelpful to these organizations or to those making policy decisions,” the study concluded. “Most studies fail to use adequate measures of value or to report key contextual and implementation characteristics. In this commentary, we: demonstrate the problem in a sampling of published articles; propose a conceptual framework and principles for measuring value in HIT; present a checklist of key study characteristics.”

Ultimately, the authors suggest, “readers can use this article as a touchstone for assessing the utility and relevance of published research studies.”