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Spotlight on success: AHRQ reviews health IT projects

You don’t believe health information technology can work for you? The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) would like to prove you wrong, as it highlights success stories among providers who have been there and done that.

Through AHRQ’s Transforming Healthcare Quality Through Health Information Technology program, providers received grants to implement and use IT in specific settings. Of 118 projects it funded in 2004 and 2005, the agency selected eight — which showcase technologies ranging from electronic health records and clinical decision support to telehealth and health information exchange — to present as case studies. AHRQ conducts research in a variety of areas of health IT and informatics.

In Massachusetts, emergency medical service agencies used a $1.5 million grant to implement a Web-based decision-support tool. Based on data entered by paramedics, EMS agency personnel could determine whether patients were having a heart attack and which medication to give them. Medical staff studied the care provided from the time of the 911 call to the time patients began treatment in the hospital, which is a standard measurement used nationally to determine quality of care. With the help of the electronic system, they found they had increased the percentage of heart-attack patients who received care within 90 minutes, which is the goal of that quality measurement.

The Massachusetts project wasn’t the only one that showed improvements in quality of care through the use of health IT, according to the AHRQ’s case study. Other projects also demonstrated greater efficiency in the cost and delivery of care, and increased access to care. “The case summaries therefore represent the positive potential of a diverse set of technologies and applications and point to some issues and challenges that must be addressed to realize the potential more broadly,” the agency said in its report.

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