NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 2, 2009

The more "wired" a hospital is, the lower its rate of patient deaths and complications, find researchers. According to the new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (AIM), automating hospital information systems also saves money.

Researchers compared inpatient death rates, complications, length-of-stay and costs associated with greater and lesser levels of automation in 41 Texas hospitals.  The level of automation was measured by physician interactions with the system:

  • A 10-point increase in the computerization of notes and records meant a 15 percent decrease in the death rate; this translated into a 1.4 percent mortality rate among those with the highest scoring on notes compared with a 1.9 percent rate among those with the lowest scores, or 5 fewer deaths per 1,000 patients.
  • Higher scores in the order entry category were associated with a 9 percent decrease in the risk of a heart attack and a 55 percent decrease in coronary artery bypass graft procedures.
  • Overall, higher scores in decision support equated with a 16 percent decrease in the rate of complications, while higher scores on test results, order entry and decision support were linked with lower costs.
  • Yet, there was no correlation between length of stay and technology score.

Of course, the success of a health-information technology system depends on so much more than the system itself.  The discussion right now is on the value of technology. 

According to Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, over the course of the next few years, with or without government prodding, we will begin to integrate this system because it's a good idea.  However, there will be some growing pains, including the astronomical start-up costs.

Even though there are high hopes that health information technology systems will help with President Obama's health care reforms, only about one-quarter of hospitals have some type of emergency medical records, and 5 percent have physician order entry, or "medical-record-lite."

Source: Amanda Gardner, "'Wired' Hospitals Post Lower Death, Complication Rates," HealthDay Reporter (US News), January 27, 2009; based upon: David W. Bates, "The Effects of Health Information Technology on Inpatient Care," Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 162, No. 2, January 2009.

For U.S. News text:

For AIM study:


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