Background: Health information technology (HIT), notably e-prescribing and electronic health records (EHR), have the potential to improve the quality of care, reduce medication errors and adverse events, and decrease overall health care utilization and costs. However, the United States continues to lag behind other countries in the adoption and use of HIT.
Objective: To review the various issues surrounding the implementation of HIT in the United States and potential drivers that will influence the use of e-prescribing and EHR.
Summary: The United States has been slow to embrace HIT. However, various factors, including increasing government involvement, are speeding the implementation and use of HIT. E-prescribing and EHR are both electronic means to provide better coordination of care by enabling various health care professionals to access patient medical records. Widespread adoption of HIT can be especially helpful for the elderly, since this population tends to have more chronic conditions requiring polypharmacy. Adoption of e-prescribing can reduce medication errors due to poor handwriting, while EHR can promote better clinical outcomes, improve medication adherence and refill rates, improve member satisfaction, and lower overall health care expenditures. Unfortunately, barriers to the adoption of e-prescribing and EHR still exist, including resistance to learning new technology, initial start-up costs, delay in seeing a return on investment, lack of a standardized platform, increased administrative burden, and misaligned incentives. In an effort to promote greater adoption of e-prescribing and EHR, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid has designed several initiatives, and other private organizations are now becoming more involved to close the HIT gap.
Conclusion: Although the United States has been slow to implement HIT, there is reason to be hopeful. Increasing involvement by the government and other organizations will facilitate the greater adoption and use of e-prescribing and EHR in the near future. Ongoing data are needed, however, to demonstrate improvements in overall patient care and reductions in health care utilization and costs. These data are necessary to remove existing barriers that may prevent widespread implementation.