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Health Information Technology and Hospital Patient Safety: A Conceptual Model to Guide Research

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Background: The literature indicates that health information technology (IT) use may lead to some gains in the quality and safety of care in some situations but provides little insight into this variability in the results that has been found. The inconsistent findings point to the need for a conceptual model that will guide research in sorting out the complex relationships between health IT and the quality and safety of care.

Methods: A conceptual model was developed that describes how specific health IT functions could affect different types of inpatient safety errors and that include contextual factors that influence successful health IT implementation. The model was applied to a readily available patient safety measure and nationwide data (2009 AHA Annual Survey Information Technology Supplement and 2009 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Databases).

Findings: The model was difficult to operationalize because (1) available health IT adoption data did not characterize health IT features and extent of usage, and (2) patient safety measures did not elucidate the process failures leading to safety-related outcomes. The sample patient safety measure—Postoperative Physiologic and Metabolic Derangement Rate—was not significantly related to self-reported health IT capabilities when adjusted for hospital structural characteristics.

Conclusion: These findings illustrate the critical need for collecting data that are germane to health IT and the possible mechanisms by which health IT may affect inpatient safety. Well-defined and sufficiently granular measures of provider's correct use of health IT functions, the contextual factors surrounding health IT use, and patient safety errors leading to health care–associated conditions are needed to illuminate the impact of health IT on patient safety.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2013

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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