Why federal incentives to adopt health IT aren't working, according to 162 health system execs

For health IT to meet its full potential, it needs better methods for creating and dispersing best practices and providing advanced tech assistance to health systems, according to a recent study published in Healthcare journal.

For the study, American nonprofit global policy think tank Rand Corp. collected information from 24 health systems across California, Washington, Minnesota and Wisconsin. A total of 162 executives from the health systems were interviewed about their experiences implementing health IT and whether the tech has made any meaningful impact on quality and cost control.

Five study insights:

1. Instead of using federal incentives and requirements to promote health IT adoption, policy should be reoriented to supporting efforts that create and disseminate best practices for how to most effectively use the tech to improve performance. 

2. Some health system executives said they had rolled out data and analytics standardization practices, which help monitor areas for performance improvement.

"Some health systems clearly had developed or adopted best practices for using health IT that others had not," Rand senior information scientist and lead study author Robert Rudin said in a news release. "It is likely that many health systems are spending considerable effort rediscovering the same lessons that others have already mastered. If lessons could be disseminated better, it could make a huge difference."

3. Despite the federal investment of passing legislation in 2009 that prompted most hospitals and providers to adopt EHRs, the researchers found that IT performance of health systems continues to lag across the U.S.

4. The researchers organized a series of IT-related activities that could lead to higher health system IT performance and sorted them into two categories: setting the foundation for performance improvement and actually using IT to improve performance.

5. For health IT to have a big impact on patient care, quality and cost control, the study authors concluded that health systems may need direct help with accelerating changes, such as through widespread distribution of proven best practices and more targeted tech and implementation assistance.

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