Using Health IT to Coordinate Care and Improve Quality in Safety-Net Clinics

Published in: The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, Volume 44, Issue 12, pages 731-740 (December 2018). doi: 10.1016/j.jcjq.2018.03.006

Posted on RAND.org on December 03, 2019

by Ashley M. Kranz, Sarah Dalton, Cheryl L. Damberg, Justin W. Timbie

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Background

Health centers provide care to vulnerable and high-need populations. Recent investments have promoted use of health information technology (HIT) capabilities for improving care coordination and quality of care in health centers. This study examined factors associated with use of these HIT capabilities and the association between these capabilities and quality of care in a census of health centers in the United States.

Methods

Cross-sectional secondary data from the 2015 Health Resources and Services Administration's Uniform Data System was used to examine 6 measures of HIT capability related to care coordination and clinical decision support and 16 measures of quality (12 process measures, 3 outcome measures, 1 composite measure) for health centers in the United States. Adjusted logistic regressions were used to examine health center characteristics associated with use of HIT capabilities, and adjusted linear regressions were used to examine associations between HIT capabilities and quality of care.

Results

Many health centers reported using HIT for care coordination activities, including coordinating enabling services (67.3%) or engaging patients (81.0%). Health center size and medical home recognition were associated with significantly greater odds of using HIT for enabling services and engaging patients. These HIT capabilities were associated with higher overall quality and higher rates of six process measures (adult screening and maternal and child health) and hemoglobin A1c control.

Conclusion

Use of HIT for such activities as arranging enabling services and engaging patients are underleveraged tools for care coordination. There may be opportunities to further improve quality of care for vulnerable patients by promoting health centers' use of these HIT capabilities.

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