A new study published in Health Care Management Review has identified three IT capabilities hospitals should have that lead to higher rates of employee productivity and flexibility. The researchers, based at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, says that greater employee productivity leads to improved patient care in United States hospitals.

“Health information technologies have a great potential to improve patient safety and reduce cost of care,” says Naresh Khatri, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Health Management and Informatics at the MU School of Medicine, who led the study. “However, the benefits of these services have remained far from realized due to a lack of proper implementation. This study found that specific IT capabilities boosted employee efforts and flexibility, leading to improved patient care.”

According to the study, those capabilities include having a competent and visionary chief information officer, an IT infrastructure designed to develop IT applications that improve patient care and business processes, and on-site IT professionals with expertise developing cost-effective IT programs that support clinical and business needs of the organization.

Khatri and his team surveyed representatives from more than 450 hospitals across the country, asking questions related to hospitals’ IT capabilities, quality of patient care, and the productivity and flexibility of their employees. For the purposes of the study, “flexibility” was defined as employees’ willingness to take on increasing workloads during peak times.

The team then evaluated whether the relationship of certain IT capabilities and the quality of patient care delivered could be controlled by employee productivity. The researchers found that certain IT capabilities had significant positive correlations with employee productivity, which in turn improved the quality of patient care.

“To deliver exemplary care, health care workers need technologies that can support them in their interactions with patients,” Khatri says. “This means moving from clinician-centric to patient-centric IT models.”

For more information, see “Effective Implementation of Electronic Medical Records and Health Information Technologies in U.S. Hospitals” in Health Care Management Review.