Information Technology and Medical Missteps: Evidence from a Randomized Trial

Innovation and Economic Growth

Article Snapshot


Jonathan Javitt, James B. Rebitzer and Lonny Reisman


NBER Working Paper No. 13493, October 2007; Journal of Health Economics, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 585-602, May 2008


A study of an IT tool to help doctors correct medical missteps found it reduced costs by 6% and improved care quality.

Policy Relevance

The finding that technology-based decision support can reduce health care costs is relevant for debates about the economic consequences of the coming wave of government subsidized and encouraged investments in electronic medical record systems.

Main Points

  • We analyze the effect of an electronic decision support tool designed to help physicians detect and correct medical “missteps”.

  • The data come from a randomized trial of the technology on a population of HMO patients.

  • The technology lowered average charges by six percent, with most of the effect coming from a reduction in in-patient charges and associated professional charges.

  • The rate at which identified issues were resolved was generally higher in the study group than the control group, suggesting an improvement in care quality along measured dimensions and an enhanced rate of diffusion of new protocols based on new clinical evidence.

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