Measuring What Matters

Recent legislation designed to stimulate the economy has sparked considerable discussion about how to use electronic medical records (EMRs) and a national Health Information Technology (HIT) grid to improve the quality of care patients receive, while reducing health care costs. Significant questions remain about how the money will be distributed, whether systems that might be implemented can be sustained over the long term, and what really might result from this unprecedented federal investment in HIT.

A report from Bridges to Excellence shows that not only are widespread EMR systems being successfully implemented in some communities across the country, they are helping to support performance measurement and quality improvement programs as well. The authors present case studies from the experiences of New York City, Cincinnati and Cleveland in implementing EMR systems. As participants in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Aligning Forces for Quality initiative, the stories of Cincinnati and Cleveland are powerful examples of how local stakeholder partnerships can effectively link HIT with efforts to improve and share information on the quality of care.

The report concludes that EMRs can help achieve the health care trifecta of:

  • giving physicians information they need to improve the quality of care that they deliver;
  • giving employers and health plans information on physician performance so that they can create meaningful incentives for excellence; and
  • letting consumers know which physicians deliver quality care.