Healthcare News & Insights

Study: IT support, EHR training key to improving quality of care

A primary goal of increased health IT adoption is to improve the quality of care delivered to patients. And according to a new study, it’s not just the technology that’s needed, but strong tech support, as well. 

That’s what researchers from Weil Cornell Medical College found after examining data from a New York City quality improvement initiative.

Researchers looked at claims data from participants in New York’s Primary Care Improvement Project (PCIP), which became a federally funded regional extension center (REC) in 2011. The program subsidizes the cost of electronic health record (EHR) systems for physicians operating in underserved areas of New York.

PCIP also provided technical assistance and coaching to those doctors. Researchers looked at participants’ performance, as well as that of doctors without tha IT support.

Program participants that received high levels of technical support and coaching — i.e., those that received at least eight technical assistance visits and had been using the system for at least nine months — improved scores in the quality improvement measures looked at, according to the study published in Health Affairs. However, the scores did not improve for providers that got lower levels of support.

The bottom line: Doctors often need a lot of help learning to use EHRs, the researchers said. Health IT systems change the way doctors have been doing things for their entire careers, and many may not be tech-savvy to begin with.

Doctors most often have to learn to use EHRs and other technology while on the job, especially as many observers say even current medical students aren’t receiving enough EHR training.

In other words, if providers want to get the most out of their health IT investments, they better not skimp on EHR training. Doing so could even completely derail an entire EHR project. Read our earlier post for advice on providing EHR training for doctors, nurses and other staff.

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