Can Better Technology Help Raise The Quality Of Nursing Home Care?

What is important to examine when you are looking for the right nursing home for you or your loved one? Do you ask about the staff to patient ratio, the comfort and cleanliness of the room, or the presence of a health information technology system? Recently, a new study has found that health information technology (HIT) does not significantly raise the quality of nursing home care or make patients significantly safer.

The study, "Effects of Electronic Health Information Technology Implementation on Nursing Home Resident Outcomes,” was published in the Journal of Aging and Health and conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University Stroud Center, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. During the study, researchers examined the impact on the use of healthcare technology in 761 different nursing homes in the area over a period of nine months.

The study found that while patients had positive reactions to the use of health care technology, including the use of mobile devices by nurses and staff members, the overall quality of care and patient outcome did not change over the course of the study. The researchers agree that further studies should be conducted to learn more about the effects of HIT in nursing home environments.

Health information technology has been seen as an extremely promising way to improve patient care in hospitals, reduce the number of medical errors, save money, and increase efficiency across the board – and many medical professionals and patients advocates applaud a future where HIT is used in medical offices, hospitals, and nursing homes across the country. In fact, the 2004 President’s Health Information Technology Plan urged all hospitals to implement HIT within a decade.

The nursing home HIT study did not discuss whether health IT systems affected the jobs of the nurses and nursing home staff, nor whether the health IT systems saved the homes money. In addition, the study did not discuss whether the HIT system helped the nursing homes themselves better track patient information.

Studies regarding the affect of health information technologies in other medical environments, such as hospitals and ambulances, have had conflicting results.