Value of healthcare IT hard to pin down

January 28, 2015 in Medical Technology

The uptake of healthcare information technology, especially EHRs, has been rapid, but how to measure the value? So far, in spite of several studies, none has been able to assess health IT’s true effect on the healthcare system, according to an ONC-funded study published online by the American Journal of Care Management on Jan. 26.

The Value of Health Information Technology: Filling the Knowledge Gap concludes that most evaluation articles are limited in that they use incomplete measures of value and fail to report the important contextual and implementation characteristics that would allow for an adequate understanding of how the study results were achieved.

[See also: How to measure the value of health IT.]

The study’s authors over a three-part framework for measuring the value of healthcare IT:

  1. Value includes both costs and benefits;
  2. Value accrues over time; and
  3. Value depends on which stakeholder’s perspective is used.

“Unfortunately, we have found that few studies include both costs and benefits in their definitions of value,” the authors wrote. “Most studies look at only short-term time horizons, which ignore many of the downstream benefits of the HIT, and many studies don’t even explicitly state to whom the value is accruing.”

“Without more attention to the necessary measuring and reporting of the data needed to assess value,” they add, “we risk the possibility of three more years’ worth of published studies, which we estimate would be more than 300 hypothesis-testing articles that do not give us appreciably better knowledge about this crucial aspect of HIT: how best to realize value.”

[See also: Providers skeptical of value-based care.]

“Through examples, we show how these principles can be used to guide and improve HIT evaluation studies,” they wrote. The study presents a checklist enumerating contextual and implementation characteristics that are important for interpretation of results. “These improvements will make future studies more useful for policymakers and more relevant to the current needs of the healthcare system,” the authors added.

Access the full study here.

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