The nation has embarked upon an unprecedented effort to transform the flow of information in healthcare in order to improve the quality and efficiency of care. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), or “Recovery Act,” contains the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or the “HITECH Act,” which establishes programs to accelerate the adoption and use of electronic health records and other types of health IT.
Healthcare providers already know that electronic health records (EHRs) can help them provide higher quality and safer care for their patients. Some healthcare providers now use EHRs to reduce paperwork and increase efficiencies. Other benefits such as improving care coordination will come with expanded health information exchange. These benefits improve workflow and reduce operating costs, which over time help recover the costs of investing in these systems. The government’s incentive program to subsidize transition to EHRs requires the demonstration of Meaningful Use to improve the quality of care and lower its cost is not available to all providers.
Consequently, providers may choose to delay investing in the electronic pursuit of quality improvements. Waiting or staying the same in an environment of rapid advances in quality and information management systems is witness to the comparative decline in quality of their services. Remaining the same until the consequences of poor quality create adverse situations is a strategy of indifferent stagnation and requires a high degree of management attention to maintain.
Change in the form of continuous improvement is prerequisite for value-based purchasing of the healthcare bundled services. Investing in the information and technology tools to build with becomes more costly the further behind the provider is when starting the quality pursuit. Over investing in IT is a risk but recovery is possible, under investing or investing too late will certainly limit the potential of any recovery. Quality should be viewed through a lens of an investment; which, if made wisely, will produce benefit value that outpaces the investment cost.