HCFO Findings Brief: The Effect of Health Information Technology on Quality in U.S. Hospitals

April 2012

Mistakes in the clinical setting are responsible for an estimated $17 billion of direct costs annually to the health care system.Proponents of health information technology (HIT) believe tools like electronic health records (EHRs) and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) could help reduce these errors and related costs by improving communication between providers and encouraging the implementation of standard guidelines and decision-support tools.In a HCFO-funded study, Jeffrey McCullough, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, and colleagues measured the quality and cost effects of clinical information technology, specifically EHR and CPOE systems. Findings from the study suggest that the effect of HIT adoption depends on context – meaning the hospital setting. While the potential for HIT to improve clinical quality is well documented, the benefits of widespread adoption remain uncertain.