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  • Overview of AHRQ Projects Points to Importance of Health IT

    A new report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) assembles the results of 12 grant studies that, combined, show that effective use of health care IT can play a significant role in improving outcomes, increasing patient engagement, and lowering costs—particularly for patients moving to or from ambulatory care settings.

    The report, titled "Findings and Lessons From the Improving Management of Individuals With Complex Healthcare Needs Through Health IT Grant Initiative" (.pdf) tracks the work of a dozen projects awarded AHRQ grants in 2007. The grant initiative is 1 in a 5-part series and a component of AHRQ's Ambulatory Safety and Quality Program, which AHRQ states was designed "to improve the safety and quality of ambulatory health care in the United States."

    In the document, AHRQ discusses how grant research informs 5 major content areas: novel approaches to providing high-quality care, integration of patient information across transitions, shared decision making and patient-clinician communication, strategies for IT adoption, and the impact of health IT on outcomes. Almost all projects "demonstrated the potential of EHRs [electronic health records] and PHRs [personal health records] to effectively move evidence-based information to the point of care, including the transfer of structured information between clinical data systems," according to the report.

    The projects themselves included the implementation of information exchange systems for ambulatory care providers treating patients in rural areas recently discharged from the hospital, the creation of computer-assisted telephone call systems to monitor patient self-care after discharge, and various care coordination projects aimed at using IT to better manage care of patients with multiple comorbidities. AHRQ characterized the results of the projects as "timely and relevant to better serve patients with complex health care needs."

    APTA offers several resources on IT and EHRs, including a webpage devoted to the use of EHRs. The association describes the EHR as a system that "puts a complete medical record at providers' fingertips" and a resource that "can be used to help inform the clinician of trends in care delivery or various aspects of care" through access to evidence-based practice data.

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