Texas hospital study points to benefits of automation

Patients at Texas hospitals that have automated some of their health information systems appear to have fewer complications, lower death rates and reduced costs, according to a report in the Jan. 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Many of the technologies addressed in the study, which was supported by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund, helped the hospitals reduce waste as well as improve quality and keep tabs on performance, the report concluded.

"In recent years, American healthcare has been criticized as fragmented, expensive, unsafe and unfair," the authors wrote. "Clinical or health information technologies, such as electronic medical records, computerized provider order entry systems and clinical decision support systems, have emerged as one antidote, promising reductions in waste, gains in communication, improvements in quality and new accountabilities through automated performance measurement."

However, David Bates, MD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says the data gathered for the study is circumstantial.

"At the end of the day, does this article mean that hospitals should now climb on the health information technology bandwagon?" he asked in an accompanying editorial. "The data are too circumstantial to answer this definitively, but they provide another extremely important set of results."

A hospital's clinical information system can be divided into four categories, the authors noted: medical notes and records, test results, order entry and decision support.

Ruben Amarasingham, MD, of Parkland Health & Hospital System and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues compared urban hospitals in Texas using a tool that measures physicians' interactions with the information system.

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