New Mathematica Study Finds Use of Health IT Associated with Lower Health Care Costs

Study Finds Physicians' “Health ITness” Associated with Lower Costs, Services Use
Jul 10, 2014

Barplot Healthcare press release

In a new study published in Healthcare, researchers at Mathematica Policy Research found that, in general, greater levels of physician health information technology (IT) adoption and use, or “health ITness,” are associated with lower health care costs and use for a number of services. Some of these services include inpatient costs and stays, imaging services, and lab tests. The researchers also found that the level of hospital health ITness affects the relationship between physician health ITness and health care use.

This study uses data from 2010 to provide a baseline assessment of the extent to which Medicare costs and use vary based on health ITness among physicians and hospitals in different hospital referral regions. Variation in health care costs and use across markets is well documented, but these characteristics have often been ignored in analyses measuring the use and impact of health IT. This study accounts for market-level differences as well as the potential spillover of health IT use between physician and hospital providers in the same market. The study results will be important for understanding the impact of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which includes the Meaningful Use Incentive Program. This legislation was a major effort by the U.S. government to increase health ITness to facilitate the exchange of information between health care providers. Legislators hope that this effort will lead to improvements in the quality and efficiency of health care delivery.

“By providing this baseline assessment that addresses market and population variation, we can better determine both the impact of the HITECH Act and, more importantly, the impact an increasing use of health IT is having on important health care outcomes like cost and use,” said Catherine McLaughlin, lead author and Mathematica senior fellow.