Nursing home users of information technology start to see its benefits

Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356

Compared with other health care institutions, nursing homes lag behind in their adoption of sophisticated health information technology (health IT) systems. However, those who do embrace these high-level systems are starting to recognize just how beneficial they are to improving patient care, according to a new study. They are also finding that such systems can have a positive impact on clinical support and even administrative activities.

University of Missouri researchers Gregory L. Alexander, Ph.D., R.N., and Douglas S. Wakefield, Ph.D., interviewed 12 key individuals at 4 different nursing homes. All had a vested interest in the clinical and administrative success of health IT systems and their implementation. During four interviews and three focus groups, the researchers collected information on the individuals' perceptions of their health IT systems, existing issues, and types of systems in use. The four participating nursing homes used two different electronic health record systems and a variety of software programs designed to manage clinical and administrative support.

Although all four nursing homes had advanced health IT systems in place, the degree of functional sophistication differed. For example, some of the facilities did not use the system to manage their dietary departments. Only one nursing home used the health IT to document and archive digital photographs, particularly for wound care. Three of the homes integrated internal charting for nurse assistants to access. While clinical alerts were available at three of the four homes, these were not used on a consistent basis to warn of patient hydration status or skin integrity. Although all of the homes had Internet access, the access was limited to management in all but one home.

However, administrators were interested in building upon their health IT knowledge. Although the benefits of health IT are being recognized in nursing homes, more attention is needed to enhance integrity and connectivity of such systems, suggest the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS16862).

See "Information technology sophistication in nursing homes," by Drs. Alexander and Wakefield in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 10, pp. 398-407, 2009.

Current as of April 2010
Internet Citation: Nursing home users of information technology start to see its benefits: Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356. April 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.