Health Information Technology: An Updated Systematic Review with a Focus on Meaningful Use Functionalities – Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology [US] – March 2014
The purpose of the project described in this report was to update previous systematic reviews focusing on the effects of health information technology (health IT) on key aspects of care, including health care quality, safety, and efficiency. This report provides our current understanding of the effects of health IT across a number of dimensions of care. Unlike reviews conducted prior to the introduction of the federal Meaningful Use Incentive Programs, this review focused specifically on identifying and summarizing the evidence relating to the use of health IT as outlined in the Meaningful Use regulations.
We performed a systematic search of the English-language literature indexed in MEDLINE from January 2010 to August 2013. We also searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Cochrane Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and the Periodical Abstracts
Database; and hand-searched personal libraries kept by content experts and project staff. We also asked content experts to identify evidence outside the peer-reviewed literature. Finally, a technical expert panel identified additional published articles and non-peer reviewed resources.
The systematic review was carried out in three stages by two health IT subject matter experts, with input from a panel of five nationally-known health IT experts. The reviewers used a webbased system to conduct the screening process. The first stage involved independent, dual-rater screening of articles based on their titles against a set of defined on the inclusion/exclusion criteria. The next stage involved screening each article at the abstract level using a standardized abstraction form. The final stage of the screening process involved a full text review and classification using a standardized abstraction form. Inclusion/exclusion or classification discrepancies between the two reviewers were resolved by consensus. We conducted multiple update searches using the same search terms through October 2013 using a computer-aided screening system that extends a previously described approach for facilitating systematic review updating.
The systematic review identified 12,678 titles, and through the screening process, we identified 236 studies meeting the eligibility criteria: assessing the effect of health IT on healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency in ambulatory and non-ambulatory care settings. Approximately 77 percent of studies reported positive or mixed-positive findings. The effects of health IT are thought to be sensitive to the particulars of the IT system itself, the implementation process, and the context in which it is implemented, and therefore generalizations across systems and contexts must be made cautiously. Nevertheless, analyses found that neither study setting (ambulatory vs. nonambulatory), nor recognition as a health IT leader, nor commercial status were significantly associated with outcome results. However, studies of efficiency were significantly less likely to report positive results than studies of safety or quality, and studies that evaluated e-prescribing and multifaceted health IT interventions were significantly less likely to report positive results than studies of more targeted clinical decision support or computerized physician order entry interventions. Studies of multifaceted health IT interventions and studies of efficiency have structural challenges that make conclusive results more difficult to obtain than more studies of more narrowly targeted health IT interventions assessing quality or safety outcomes
Overall, a majority of studies that evaluated the effects of health IT on healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency reported findings that were at least partially positive. These studies evaluated several forms of health IT: metrics of satisfaction, care process, and cost and health outcomes across many different care settings. Our findings agree with previous health IT literature reviews suggesting that health IT, particularly those functionalities included in the Meaningful Use regulation, can improve healthcare quality and safety. The relationship between health IT and efficiency is complex and remains poorly documented or understood, particularly in terms of healthcare costs, which are highly dependent upon the care delivery and financial context in which the technology is implemented.
We identified two broad themes in this review. First, the published literature on health IT is expanding rapidly, driven primarily by studies of commercial health IT systems. Second, much of the health IT literature still suffers from methodological and reporting problems that limit our ability to draw firm conclusions about why the intervention and/or its implementation succeeded or failed to meet expectations, and their generalizability to other contexts. Studies of health IT must be designed, conducted, and reported in ways that allow stakeholders to understand study results and how they can replicate or improve on those results.