Resources and Publications

Improving Health Care: Why a Dose of IT May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered

October 25, 2007
| Reports

Information technology (IT) is a major driver of innovation and economic growth. Health IT promises to revolutionize health care by improving the quality and containing the costs of care. For the American health care system to benefit from advances in IT, it must adopt electronic health records (EHRs). An EHR contains the complete medical history of a patient, including a full listing of illnesses, laboratory tests, treatments, drugs administered, and allergies.

Health IT is not just about merely digitizing medical records to create a paperless office, although doing this will achieve considerable savings-it is also about fundamentally transforming the health care system so that both doctors and patients have access to information and tools that allow them to better manage their care. This new IT-enabled model of health care has the potential to improve preventive health care and chronic disease management and reward medical practices with financial incentives for effective and efficient care. It has the potential to give health care researchers the data they need to identify and deliver best practice care and continuously improve the quality of health care. Finally, health IT has the potential to empower consumers to better understand and manage their own health care conditions, needs, and treatments.

This paper explores the benefits of using information technology in the health care sector, such as reduced medical costs, improved medical care, and increased access to personal health information. It then reviews the obstacles that have prevented the widespread adoption of EHRs and proposes a number of policy recommendations to speed adoption. Specifically, the paper discusses the benefits of establishing independent health record data banks as a sustainable and market-based approach to implementing EHRs. ITIF also recommends other methods to leverage federal resources to speed EHR adoption.