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NEW YORK, Oct. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Unlike most home healthcare agencies, which have restricted the use of computer programs to such non-patient-care items as billing, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York has adopted advanced information technology in order to improve patient care. One of the results, documented in a new publication(1), is a significant 10% reduction in patient episodes ending in hospitalization, from 37% to 27% over the years 2001-2009.

"This shows that you shouldn't reserve computer technology for just patient financials when you can use it to enhance patient care," emphasizes Dr. Robert Rosati, Vice President of Clinical Informatics, Center for Home Care Policy and Research, VNSNY.

That is what VNSNY does, following the Government's push for wider use of computers in what's known as Health Information Technology, which allows better coordination of care.  It began with VNSNY's intranet website, initiated in 2002, which includes more than 250 customized patient reports that can be searched for widely differing patient information.

Three of the most important impacts of the technology are: 1) identify patients at risk of hospitalization in order to intervene clinically before the critical stage is reached; 2) discover patients who are eligible for and in need of physical therapy; and 3) assess the performance of clinical staff and programs.

One example, known as the Quality Scorecard, answers a question the agency asks itself: 'how'm I doin?' This report monitors goals and actual performance of VNSNY on such measures as staff oversight, scheduling of patients, discharge planning, treatment outcomes, and patient satisfaction. The Scorecard updates itself monthly to show how well targets are being reached.

"Unless you have a feedback mechanism in place, you have no idea whether your ambitious programs are really working," says Dr. Rosati. "It's no accident," he adds, "that the Quality Scorecard

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