IT Heavy Hospitals Have Lower Mortality Rates

By Allen Bernard

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The nation's "100 Most Wired" hospitals and health systems -- those that have invested significantly in health information technology -- have lower mortality rates than other hospitals, according to results of a new analysis released today in the July issue of Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.

While the new survey does not establish a "cause and effect" relationship between information technology use and improved outcomes, it demonstrates that technology can play an important role in quality.

"There are three key differences in how hospitals apply and use information technology to improve care, said Alden Solovy, executive editor of Hospitals & Health Networks, the journal of the American Hospital Association (AHA).

"The Most Wired use a wider array of IT tools to address quality and safety, they have a significantly larger percentage of physicians who enter orders themselves and they conduct a larger percentage of clinical activities via information technology."

Since 1999, Hospitals & Health Networks has surveyed the nation's hospitals on their use of information technology to accomplish key goals, including safety and quality objectives. Based on a detailed scoring process, the magazine annually names the "100 Most Wired Hospitals and Health Systems."

This year 502 surveys were submitted, representing 1,255 hospitals.

According to an outcomes analysis conducted for the magazine by Solucient, a healthcare business intelligence provider, the 100 Most Wired hospitals have, on average, risk-adjusted mortality rates that are 7.2% lower than other hospitals, even after controlling for the size of the hospital and teaching status.

"This is the first analysis showing that the nation's top tech hospitals also have better outcomes," Solovy said. The analysis compared mortality results for the 2005 list of Most Wired with the rest of the nation.

Solovy cautions that the analysis does not establish a causal relationship between IT and outcomes.

"It's not a random observation, even if it is not necessarily cause and effect," said Kaveh Safavi, M.D., Solucient chief medical officer. In fact, hospitals surveyed say that IT is one component of quality.

"Thoughtful institutions that pay attention to quality are also interested in clinical information technology," said Graham Hughes, M.D., vice president of product strategy for IDX Systems Corp. "This adds increasing weight to the notion that careful implementation of clinical IT contributes to better care."

Hospital CIOs say that information technology has a key role in both targeted safety efforts and overall systemic improvement to quality and patient safety.

"This study reflects the potential for change that is sweeping the industry," said Lewis B. Redd, partner, Accenture Health & Life Sciences. "We're entering an era where the IT-enabled integration and analysis of health information are central to better decisions, processes and outcomes."

Hospitals & Health Networks conducted the 2005 survey in cooperation with Accenture, IDX Systems Corporation, and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).