The March issue of Health Affairs focuses on two emerging health improvement strategies: utilization of health information technology and public reporting on performance. Articles on each of the strategies examine theory versus practice, and the impact that related programs have made to date. The issue opens with an interview between former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Brailer and current Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, where they compare notes on the nation’s progress toward use of electronic health records. When asked for his take on the status of health IT adoption in general, Mostashari responded that he thinks the nation is making progress:

“I think the three-word phrase would be 'on the march.' If we look at every indicator we have, it’s all pointing in the right direction…We also have seen tremendous attention paid to the need for use of electronic health records, not just basic adoption but their meaningful use,” he stated.
Mostashari’s comments echoed those he made during his presentation at the National Health Policy Conference last month, where he shared his insight on current efforts to build a learning health care system. In his session he talked about the progress he’s seen in advancing an overall culture of data in the United States, with “40 percent of primary care providers working to adopt meaningful use through electronic health records.” (A recording of Mostashari’s session is available to National Health Policy Conference attendees on the AcademyHealth website—login required.) An outline of the Office of the National Coordinator’s strategy is also published in this month's issue. Other articles in the journal explore electronic health records and information exchanges—not all with the same positive outlook as Mostashari. In fact, one study's findings are getting a lot of attention because they challenge the notion that the use of electronic health records can lead to reduced costs. The researchers found that physicians with access to electronic health data were actually more likely to order expensive tests for patients.
“Our research raises real concerns about whether health information technology is going to be the answer to reducing costs,” lead study author Danny McCormick said in yesterday's New York Times.
Health Affairs has more coverage on this study's findings and the authors' insights on their blog. The second half of the issue focuses on public reporting, with articles examining evidence from the consumer and physician perspectives. The Health Affairs blog has a nice summary of one article about the outcome of Medicare’s hospital quality reporting initiative. The following AcademyHealth members had their work published in this month’s issue: Analysis and Commentary: The Need to Incorporate Health Information Technology into Physicians’ Education and Professional Development David Blumenthal Hospitals Ineligible for Federal Meaningful-Use Incentives have Dismally Low Rates of Adoption of Electronic Health Records Ashish K. Jha Obtaining Providers’ ‘Buy-In’ and Establishing Effective Means of Information Exchange Will be Critical yo HITECH’s Success Marsha R. Gold Catherine G. McLaughlin, Robert A. Berenson, and Randall R. Bovbjerg Satisfying Patient-Consumer Principles for Health Information Exchange: Evidence from California Case Studies Robert H. Miller Simulation Suggests that Medical Group Mergers Won’t Undermine the Potential Utility of Health Information Exchanges Eric C. Schneider An Experiment Shows that a Well-Designed Report on Costs and Quality Can Help Consumers Choose High-Value Health Care Judith H. Hibbard, Jessica Greene, Shoshanna Sofaer Public Reporting Helped Drive Quality Improvement in Outpatient Diabetes Care Among Wisconsin Physician Groups Maureen A. Smith Multistakeholder Regional Collaboratives Have Been Key Drivers of Public Reporting, But Now Face Challenges Gary J. Young Medicare’s Public Reporting Initiative on Hospital Quality Had Modest or No Impact on Mortality from Three Key Conditions Andrew M. Ryan and Justin B. Dimick How Report Cards on Physicians, Physician Groups, and Hospitals Can Have Greater Impact on Consumer Choices Anna D. Sinaiko, and Meredith B. Rosenthal A Five-Point Checklist to Help Performance Reports Incentivize Improvement and Effectively Guide Patients Mark W. Friedberg and Cheryl L. Damberg Analysis and Commentary: Advancing Public Reporting through a New ‘Aggregator’ to Standardize Data Collection on Providers’ Cost and Quality Harold S. Luft Tool Used to Assess How Well Community Health Centers Function as Medical Homes May Be Flawed Robert H. Brook Building the Scaffold to Improve Health Care Quality in Western New York Dennis Scanlon The Future Nursing Workforce: The Authors Reply Peter I. Buerhaus   Health Affairs is an official journal of AcademyHealth.