health information technology, HIT, patient safety, quality of care, acute care hospitals


The adoption of healthcare information technology (HIT) has been advocated by various groups as critical in addressing the growing crisis in the healthcare industry. Despite the plethora of evidence on the benefits of HIT, however, the healthcare industry lags behind many other economic sectors in the adoption of information technology. A significant number of healthcare providers still keep patient information on paper. With the recent trends of reimbursement reduction and rapid technological advances, therefore, it would be critical to understand differences in structural characteristics and healthcare performance between providers that do and that do not adopt HIT. This is accomplished in this research, first by identifying organizational and contextual factors associated with the adoption of HIT in US acute care hospitals and second by examining the relationships between the adoption of HIT and two important healthcare outcomes: patient safety and quality of care. After conducting literature a review, the structure-process-outcome model and diffusion of innovations theory were used to develop a conceptual framework. Hypotheses were developed and variables were selected based on the conceptual framework. Publicly available secondary data were obtained from the American Hospital Association (AHA), the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) databases. The information technologies were grouped into three clusters: clinical, administrative, and strategic decision making ITs. After the data from the three sources were cleaned and merged, regression models were built to identify organizational and contextual factors that affect HIT adoption and to determine the effects of HIT adoption on patient safety and quality of care. Most prior studies on HIT were restricted in scope as they primarily focused on a limited number of technologies, single healthcare outcomes, individual healthcare institutions, limited geographic locations, and/or small market segments. This limits the generalizability of the findings and makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. The new contribution of the present study lies in the fact that it uses nationally representative latest available data and it incorporates a large number of technologies and two risk adjusted healthcare outcomes. Large size and urban location were found to be the most influential hospital characteristics that positively affect information technology adoption. However, the adoption of HIT was not found to significantly affect hospitals' performance in terms of patient safety and quality of care measures. Perhaps a remarkable finding of this study is the better quality of care performance of hospitals in the Midwest, South, and West compared to hospitals in the Northeast despite the fact that the latter reported higher HIT adoption rates. In terms of theoretical implications, this study confirms that organizational and contextual factors (structure) affect adoption of information technology (process) which in turn affects healthcare outcomes (outcome), though not consistently, validating Avedis Donabedian's structure-process-outcome model. In addition, diffusion of innovations theory links factors associated with resource abundance, access to information, and prestige with adoption of information technology. The present findings also confirm that hospitals with these attributes adopted more technologies. The methodological implication of this study is that the lack of a single common variable and uniformity of data among the data sources imply the need for standardization in data collection and preparation. In terms of policy implication, the findings in this study indicate that a significant number of hospitals are still reluctant to use clinical HIT. Thus, even though the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was a good stimulus, a more aggressive policy intervention from the government is warranted in order to direct the healthcare industry towards a better adoption of clinical HIT.


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Graduation Date



Zhang, Ning


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Public Affairs








Release Date

August 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)