RAND Walks Back HIT Savings Estimates

John Commins, January 14, 2013

RAND researchers are walking back a report that the nonprofit public policy think tank issued in 2005 estimating that the widespread adoption of healthcare information technology could trim more than $81 billion each year from the nation's healthcare tab through improved efficiencies.

Instead, a new RAND analysis by a new team of researchers, published this month in Health Affairs, notes that seven years later, expectations about the safety and efficiency of HIT mostly have not been met, and annual healthcare spending has increased by $800 billion. 

"The failure of health information technology to quickly deliver on its promise is not caused by its lack of potential, but rather because of the shortcomings in the design of the IT systems that are currently in place," said Dr. Art Kellermann, the study's senior author said in a media release.

"We believe the productivity gains of health information technology are being delayed by the slow pace of adoption and the failure of many providers to make the process changes needed to realize the potential," Kellermann said.  

The new RAND study blamed the underperformance on several factors, including: sluggish adoption of HIT systems, along with balky systems that are hard to use and aren't interoperable; and a failure by providers and hospitals to adjust care processes to better benefit from HIT.

However, just as the 2005 RAND study over-estimated the potential savings with implementation of HIT, several observers tell HealthLeaders Media that the latest RAND report may be prematurely drawing too dire a picture of HIT adoption.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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