A Pattern of Better Health Care

The potential of health IT to improve patients' outcomes is undermined by information systems that "are not designed to collect data to support quality improvement as the primary purpose," says a report released this week by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The potential of health IT to improve patients' outcomes is undermined by information systems that "are not designed to collect data to support quality improvement as the primary purpose," says a report released this week by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Improving outcomes requires the ability to discern and examine patterns of care across large groups of patients, a function ideally suited to health IT. Too often, though, applications focus on unit records data and fail to connect the dots across populations.

"Retrofitting legacy health information systems to capture data on quality measures is often labor intensive," says the 2009 National Health Quality Report. AHRQ is part of the Health and Human Services Department.

The report concludes that "providers need reliable information about their performance to guide improvement activities" and that "information systems are necessary ... for ensuring high quality health care."

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