After more than a year of endorsing an ever-widening range of software for healthcare, the VHA alliance is retooling its information technology evaluation initiative to focus on the link between physicians and data sources.
The change in focus stems from a VHA survey of more than 300 senior healthcare executives. Among the questions, the survey asked executives what emerging information technologies they're watching most closely. It also asked which categories of products are in their capital-investment plans within the next three years (See chart).
The executives included chief information officers, chief operating officers, chiefs of medical staffs and chief nursing officers from among the network of 1,400 healthcare organizations represented by Irving, Texas-based VHA.
Since September 1995, VHA's $22 million initiative has focused on identifying products on the market that will help healthcare organizations automate care, manage resources and link physician offices to hospitals.
Products in those categories are supported by additional products that integrate clinical information, such as clinical data repositories, interface engines, networkwide scheduling systems, computerized work-flow management systems, comparative data systems, practice-management systems and case-management systems.
VHA has struck partnership and promotion agreements with vendors covering a number of those product types. That's the alliance's way of influencing advances in computerization that its member organizations say they need.
Other product categories are nearing the agreement stage, said Charles Burwell, senior vice president for information services. For example, an announcement on a networkwide scheduling system could come as early as this month, he said.
But starting in 1997, Burwell said the technology initiative will refocus its efforts on a few areas that were singled out again and again in the survey:
Software systems and communications technology that connect physicians to clinical and administrative destinations for data.
Clinical data repositories and related software to tag, trace, organize and store patient-specific information for retrieval and analysis.
Physician practice management systems, which are predominantly billing and administrative automation packages but need to be understood and improved as part of the overall physician-office computerization effort.
The surge of interest in physician-office linkage to outside data was powered by more than the usual hospital administrators' concern about managed care. Burwell said much of the interest now is coming from physicians themselves.
VHA already has a partnership agreement with MedicaLogic of Beaverton, Ore., to forge clinical linkages with physicians. But now the alliance wants to "go deep into this area" by working with MedicaLogic to push development of an expanded range of features, Burwell said.
The VHA survey also picked up interest in the Internet. Based on that interest, VHA created a second information initiative to size up the promise of Internet-derived technology.