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Rural nursing homes ‘behind on IT’ indicates study

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Nursing homes in more rural areas are at risk of falling behind on developments in using information technology for healthcare, compared to their counterparts in towns and cities, a US study has indicated.

Nurse researchers have conducted the first national assessment of IT “sophistication” in US nursing homes for a decade, finding a significant gap between those located in the countryside and those in urban areas.

“Improvement of IT sophistication will lead to better patient outcomes”

Greg Alexander

According to figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one million older Americans depend on around 16,000 nursing homes for their healthcare.

The new study, undertaken by the University of Missouri, is the first national assessment of US nursing home IT use since 2004. Researchers surveyed over 800 nursing homes across the country.

The researchers found that nursing homes located in metropolitan areas had greater IT laboratory capabilities for resident registration and admission.

Urban nursing homes also were better at conducting and verifying medical tests, which can impact and improve patient care, said the study authors.

They warned that the gap could have implications for patients, as nursing homes in rural areas might have less capacity to exchange information with hospitals to ensure high-quality transitions in care.

“Historically, nursing home IT has been used solely for administrative activities and much less for resident care and clinical support. However, results are encouraging as information technology sophistication in other domains appears to be greater than previously imagined,” said the authors in the Journal of Rural Health.

University of Missouri

Rural nursing homes ‘behind on IT’ indicates study

Source: MU News Bureau

Greg Alexander

Professor Greg Alexander, from the university’s Sinclair School of Nursing said: “Previous studies demonstrate that IT sophistication can improve health outcomes for patients, such as reducing hospitalisations.

“The benefits of IT sophistication do not differ based on geography. However, in this national assessment, we found a significant gap in IT sophistication between rural and urban areas,” he said.

“Policy makers need to be aware of the unique challenges facing rural health organisations and provide the necessary incentives to help rural nursing homes improve their IT sophistication,” he said.

He added: “Improvement of IT sophistication will lead to better patient outcomes and a better quality of life for nursing home residents.”

Professor Alexander has also recently received a grant from the US government to study health informatics in Australian nursing homes.

He will be studying IT sophistication and quality measures at Macquarie University as part of a project to improve patient care in Australia’s nursing homes.

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