Many of the nation's hospitals and systems have made progress laying the building blocks for creating robust clinical information technology systems. Now comes the heavy lifting as they look to connect the care continuum, protect patient records in an increasingly mobile world, and turn all of those bits and bytes of data they are collecting into actionable information.

As evidenced in the 15th annual Health Care's Most Wired Survey from Trustee sister publication Hospitals & Health Networks, a good percentage of hospitals and systems have deployed technologies that improve patient documentation, advance clinical decision support and evidence-based protocols, reduce the likelihood of medication errors and rapidly restore access to data in the case of a disaster or outage.

What's driving these improvements? Federal regulation for starters. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, or HITECH, mandates that hospitals and physicians not just adopt health IT, but use it in a meaningful way. Another key driver: delivery system transformation. Leaders at forward-thinking organizations know they can't make the leap to population health management or accountable care without fully integrating their operational and IT strategies.

Key findings include:

Engaging physicians: 65 percent of hospitals that achieved certain IT benchmarks across four categories and were named Most Wired offer physician-performance comparisons on quality and cost-efficiency measures, compared with 53 percent of all survey respondents; 70 percent of Most Wired hospitals deliver quality scores electronically to individual physicians on a semiannual basis, compared with 60 percent of all respondents; 77 percent of the Most Wired deliver quality scores electronically to clinical leaders on a monthly basis, compared with 70 percent of all respondents; and 89 percent of the Most Wired share best practices for patient safety, such as implementing checklists, compared with 77 percent of all respondents.

Engaging patients: 41 percent of Most Wired organizations have a patient portal or Web-based solution for patient-generated data, compared with 28 percent of all respondents; 40 percent of the Most Wired record patient preferences for communication medium (email, text, phone), compared with 31 percent of all respondents; 35 percent of the Most Wired use IT for proactive health management of each patient, compared with 26 percent of all respondents; and 12 percent of the Most Wired provide telemedicine consultation in the patient's home, compared with 8 percent of all respondents.

Clinical documentation: 81 percent of Most Wired organizations make clinical documentation available electronically in employed physician offices, compared with 74 percent of all respondents.

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