Supporters of health IT have stated for years that the adoption of these platforms by healthcare facilities would streamline care and improve patient outcomes across the entire country. Despite this noble goal, health IT does not appear to be taking hold in all markets, as evidenced by a Health Affairs study released this week which found that a 15-percent gap between the health IT adoption rates of large and small providers climbed to 22 percent last year.
Earlier this week, this blog mentioned the digital divide that exists between those who own smartphones and those who do not. Smartphones allow users who have downloaded applications to track their health, which should help enhance outcomes.
This divide also exists only on a macro scale between medical facilities of varying sizes, despite the government's best efforts to provide medical professionals with financial incentives for adopting health IT tools. What happened instead is that some of the more advanced facilities, usually located in urban areas, have continued to build upon their IT achievements, while smaller facilities have been left behind.
"It was not intended to get the leaders over the line while smaller, nonteaching and rural hospitals are left behind," report co-author Chantal Worzala told InformationWeek Healthcare. "The gap between the hospitals that were furthest ahead and those that were furthest behind is something that we really want to make sure folks understand because we think it is potentially problematic."
Without vital IT tools, smaller hospitals cannot provide optimal care to patients, which may push many prospective care recipients away, toward other facilities. Considering that many smaller providers are already facing difficulties related to reduced Medicaid and Medicare payments and fewer highly talented doctors, many facilities are already struggling.
Small facilities could make immeasurable gains from partnering with a healthcare IT consulting service that provides adoption assistance at an affordable rate. Medical professionals can justify these up-front costs by considering the likely benefits to patients and reduced chance of problems related to HIPAA compliance.