The value of health IT

In honor of National Health IT week, I'm pleased to address the query, what is the value of health IT?

It’s tempting to assign a dollar value to health IT, especially when the Department of Health & Human Services announces that consumers have saved more than $1 billion thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s rate review provision for health insurance premiums. We regularly report on the money being spent to implement Meaningful Use, reductions in duplicate tests, efforts to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and much more related to healthcare economics, but there are some things on which you can’t put financial figures.

These include improvements in patient safety, better medication adherence, better communication between healthcare providers, greater efficiency for clinicians, more convenient access for patients and reports that physicians are better able to do the job they trained to do – take care of patients.

It’s been quite clear for many years that the U.S. healthcare system is not sustainable and not particularly efficient. There has, of course, been much debate over how to transform the system to one that runs much more efficiently with emphasis on the rights things, such as patient outcomes and reduced spending. That debate is sure to continue. It is fascinating to me, however, to see how health IT figures into the process.

And figure in it certainly does. There is no aspect of healthcare that health IT doesn’t impact. From telehealth and mobile health to information exchange to decision support and care coordination to newer developments such as personalized medicine based on analytics and wearable sensors. In my opinion, the value of health IT is the ability to make sense of and coordinate the vast information available from all of these resources to make our healthcare system one truly focused on health. When it works well, it is part information design and part intuitive IT. We at Clinical Innovation + Technology look forward to continuing to cover the exciting and rapid developments.