Hospitals that have made it to the advanced stages of electronic health record (EHR) implementation are significantly more likely to set national benchmarks for quality and safety performance, according to the 2012 HIMSS Analytics Report.
The research (PDF), sponsored by Thomson Reuters and HIMSS Analytics, found a correlation between hospitals that are both ranked in the Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals and at the upper end of the seven-stage HIMMS scale for EHR adoption.
While the link between electronic implementation and quality is important, William Bria, MD, chief medical information officer at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia, cautions hospitalists and others from taking too much comfort in it. Simply implementing EHR and other technologies doesn't work, he says; the system has to be crafted in conjunction with its users.
"The best-led organizations in the country are using the metrics of safety and quality of care right alongside the implementation plan of their [health IT] programs," says Dr. Bria. "And the only way this occurs, of course, is if the partnering between executive and technological leadership and clinical leadership occurs."
Dr. Bria views research on the success of EHRs in improving hospital performance as an opportunity for hospitalists to get more involved in both the planning and implementation processes. He urges hospitalists to work with other physicians and IT staffers to learn how best to use their EHR, and not assume they can master complex software systems as easily as they understand smartphones and tablet computers.
"You can buy a piano and bang on it with your fist, and you won't really attract anybody to listen to your music," Dr. Bria says. "On the other hand, if you learn how to play, you study hard, and you learn the nuances of musicianship, you can become a Van Cliburn."