AHRQ report: EHRs crucial to improving quality

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM

Recent reports on quality and disparities in the use of healthcare services nationwide show the need for more effective use of information technology.

The reports, issued in late December by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, provide a baseline for measuring the quality of healthcare and inequalities in the use of services, said Helen Burstin, director of the Center for Primary Care, Prevention and Clinical Partnerships.

The reports, requested by Congress, will be conducted annually. Results of the studies are available at the AHRQ Web site (see link above), which features portals for providers, policymakers, consumers, and payers and purchasers.

Data for the results came from federal datasets already in hand, Burstin said. The results of the studies really weren't surprising.

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"The most striking thing is that there's not anything new here," she said. "Although the system is quite good, there's significant room for improvement. There are really missed opportunities to provide preventive services and better manage chronic conditions."

Those shortcomings are due, in part, to the lack of electronic health records, the report found. Health systems that have electronic health records have better data for reporting purposes and can take steps to improve care.

Electronic records could help caregivers with clinical decision support, the findings suggest. For example, only 42 percent of patients hospitalized for heart attacks are counseled to quit smoking.

"Given the current paper-based and fragmented state of healthcare , it is difficult to effectively deliver evidence-based care," said Janet Marchibroda, CEO of the eHealth Initiative, a not-for-profit consortium promoting the use of IT.

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