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Study: Big hospitals benefit from health-related IT
[April 17, 2006]

Study: Big hospitals benefit from health-related IT


(Orlando Sentinel, The (FL) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 17--Health-related information technology improves the quality of health care for big health-care institutions, but the jury is still out for small hospitals and medical practices, according to a new federal study.



The report "Costs and Benefits of Health Information Technology" was released last week by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It reported that studies conducted through 2003 showed that health IT can improve the "efficiency, cost-effectiveness, quality and safety" of health care. But such measured improvements "have occurred primarily within large health-care systems that created their own health IT systems."

That's not feasible for small medical practices and hospitals, which deliver most of the health care in this country. They will have to rely on commercially available systems -- and much more information about these systems is needed.


Over the next year and a half, studies focusing on smaller health-care providers using commercially available IT systems will become public, the health-care agency reported. The resulting information "will be shared broadly to help all health-care providers more successfully adopt health IT," said the agency's director, Dr. Carolyn Clancy.

Not so fast

Health-related information technology could be wonderful, but it also could make health care much worse if patient privacy rights are not protected. That's the message from a coalition of 26 advocacy groups that cross the political spectrum -- from the American Conservative Union and the Christian Coalition of America to Common Cause and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Patient Privacy Rights coalition (patientprivacyrights .org) is still upset about a 2002 amendment to the "Privacy Rule" that it argues weakened patients' rights to keep their medical records private.

The coalition seeks, among other goals, to give individuals the right to opt out of any national or regional electronic health system, to deny employer access to medical records, and to require that patients be notified of privacy breaches, real or suspected.

"Unless patients are assured of security, they will avoid treatment, lie about their symptoms and health issues, omit critical medical data and delay care, endangering their health and the health of others," stated a coalition letter that was sent to congressional leaders earlier this month.

Free gift shop

Patients at the new Breast Care Center at Orlando Regional Medical Center have an on-site gift shop of their own.

Harriett's opened last week, featuring scarves, hats, post-mastectomy camisoles, self-help books, and other items that carry no price tag.

Patients at the center, which is staffed by doctors from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando and the Surgical Group of Orlando, receive vouchers for one free gift in the shop. Donations are requested for those who want additional items.

The shop's name is in honor of local philanthropist Harriett Lake, who donated $500,000 to make it happen.

The gift shop opened for business March 1.

Harry Wessel can be reached at hwessel@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5506.

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