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Health Information Technology Adoption in the Emergency Department

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Keywords: Information technology in health;ambulatory care;hospital emergency departments.

Objective: To describe the trend in health information technology (IT) systems adoption in hospital emergency departments (EDs) and its effect on ED efficiency and resource use.

Data Sources: 2007–2010 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey – ED Component.

Study Design: We assessed changes in the percent of visits to EDs with health IT capability and the estimated effect on waiting time to see a provider, visit length, and resource use.

Principal Findings: The percent of ED visits that took place in an ED with at least a basic health IT or an advanced IT system increased from 25.2 and 3.1 percent in 2007 to 69.1 and 30.6 percent in 2010, respectively (p < .05). Controlling for ED fixed effects, waiting times were reduced by 6.0 minutes in advanced IT-equipped EDs (p < .05), and the number of tests ordered increased by 9 percent (p < .01). In models using a 1-year lag, advanced systems also showed an increase in the number of medications and images ordered per visit.

Conclusions: Almost a third of visits now occur in EDs with advanced IT capability. While advanced IT adoption may decrease wait times, resource use during ED visits may also increase depending on how long the system has been in place. We were not able to determine if these changes indicated more appropriate care.

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