Health information technology (IT) is often proposed as a solution to fragmentation of care, and has been hypothesized to reduce readmission risk through better information flow. However, there are numerous distinct health IT capabilities, and it is unclear which, if any, are associated with lower readmission risk.To identify the specific health IT capabilities adopted by hospitals that are associated with hospital-level risk-standardized readmission rates (RSRRs) through path analyses using structural equation modeling.This STROBE-compliant retrospective cross-sectional study included non-federal U.S. acute care hospitals, based on their adoption of specific types of health IT capabilities self-reported in a 2013 American Hospital Association IT survey as independent variables. The outcome measure included the 2014 RSRRs reported on Hospital Compare website.A 54-indicator 7-factor structure of hospital health IT capabilities was identified by exploratory factor analysis, and corroborated by confirmatory factor analysis. Subsequent path analysis using Structural equation modeling revealed that a one-point increase in the hospital adoption of patient engagement capability latent scores (median path coefficient ß = -0.086; 95% Confidence Interval, -0.162 to -0.008), including functionalities like direct access to the electronic health records, would generally lead to a decrease in RSRRs by 0.086%. However, computerized hospital discharge and information exchange capabilities with other inpatient and outpatient providers were not associated with readmission rates.These findings suggest that improving patient access to and use of their electronic health records may be helpful in improving hospital performance on readmission; however, computerized hospital discharge and information exchange among clinicians did not seem as beneficial - perhaps because of the quality or timeliness of information transmitted. Future research should use more recent data to study, not just adoption of health IT capabilities, but also whether their usage is associated with lower readmission risk. Understanding which capabilities impact readmission risk can help policymakers and clinical stakeholders better focus their scarce resources as they invest in health IT to improve care delivery.
Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.