Room for Progress

Health IT by the Numbers

This by the numbers look shows that government support for health IT could save lives and improve care.

Nurse Lucy Stufflebeam records a patient's heartbeat using a "home telecare" device. Video monitoring is just one form of information technology that can help promote wellness and reduce health care costs. (AP/Jim McKnight)
Nurse Lucy Stufflebeam records a patient's heartbeat using a "home telecare" device. Video monitoring is just one form of information technology that can help promote wellness and reduce health care costs. (AP/Jim McKnight)

America’s healthcare system is fragmented. Treatment and record-keeping practices vary widely, and patient information is often scattered or inaccessible. The consequences of the resulting errors are often tragic. This morning the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hear testimony on how properly implemented electronic medical records and health information technologies can help to reduce the incidence of medical errors arising from mix-ups or overlooked data and lower administrative costs.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has just released a detailed plan to advance health IT to meet a goal of the majority of Americans having access to electronic medical records by 2014.

Such technology—comprising health information exchanges, interoperability of records, access to radiological and laboratory test results, e-prescribing, and electronic notes—can help meet goals of improving administrative efficiency, facilitating national health goals, improv ing the processes of health care delivery, and ultimately improving the quality of care.

The numbers below show the benefits—in reduced risk and cost—of bringing health care into the 21st century.

Preventable errors cost lives and money.

98,000: Number of people who die in hospitals each year as a result of preventable medical errors.

1.5 million: Number of people injured every year by medication errors.

$3.5 billion: Estimated annual cost of treating preventable medication-related injuries that occur in hospitals, not including lost wages and productivity or additional health care costs

$8,750: Average cost added to a hospital stay as a result of each incidence of a preventable adverse drug effect.

Electronic medical records and other IT improvements can save time and money.

28 percent: Amount of their time nurses spend on documenting patient care in the current paper-based records system.

$5,556: Median capital spending per-bed for health IT acquisition in 2006. Current health IT spending would be more effective if the federal government created standards to unify the health care system.

$44,000: Predicted initial cost of implementing interoperable electronic health records per full-time-equivalent provider. These records could help lower costs and improve care over the long term.

$2 trillion: Amount spent on health care annually.

As medical care becomes more and more complex, the benefits of implementing process improvement and health IT become more evident.

90 minutes: The recommended “door-to-balloon” time which the American College of Cardiology recommends emergency departments aim for in treating acute myocardial infarctions (AMIs), a type of heart attack. Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey used process improvement techniques and health IT to work toward this goal.

10.9 percent: National average mortality rate for AMI patients

5 percent: Mortality rate of AMI patients at Hackensack after the hospital implemented process improvements and health IT measures, such as digital transmission of ambulance EKG results and standardized treatment procedures.

Electronic records would allow patients, providers and payers to more easily coordinate care across the country and facilitate reporting on care received. This information would enhance the portability of medical records, aid in the development of metrics for quality care, and empower patients to find the best care available.

Health IT is the backbone of an improved, progressive health care system. It will support and improve the pro cess of care, provide the analytic infrastructure for clinical effectiveness research, and support administrative and payment systems that enable the right incentives to work within the health care system.

Health IT and process improvements are critical tools for reforming our health care system and improving quality of care. To be fully effective, however, health IT requires national standards for interoperability, funding for clinical and comparative effectiveness research, and federal support for the improvement of the national health IT infrastructure.

Read CAP’s report on Health Information Technology:

Navigating American Health Care: How IT Can Foster Health Care Improvement

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