Some 44% of healthcare organizations have a physician assigned at least part time to information management duties, according to a new study conducted by a national organization.
And among those who do not have someone with formal responsibilities in the information systems department, 36% have physician representation on various information systems projects and committees, and another 18% are actively weighing plans to expand physician duties in information management.
The survey, conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Ann Arbor, Mich., drew responses from 130 healthcare organizations, including some of the nation's largest and most prestigious.
The survey found that 40% of physicians who have information systems responsibilities spend at least half their time on departmental activities. Some 14% devote full time to such activities.
Not surprisingly, the major barriers to greater physician involvement include time constraints and a lack of physician knowledge regarding information issues.
Almost 70% of surveyed physicians said they are compensated for their duties. The largest group, 24%, said they got all or a portion of their salaries from the information systems department budget.
The survey was undertaken for the CHIME by a pair of executives from Memorial Health Care of Worcester, Mass. (formerly Medical Center of Central Massachussets). They are Anne Seger, M.D., medical director, systems integration, and Richard F. Bretagne, senior vice president and chief information officer.
Seger spends half her time on information systems duties and notes that maintaining her clinical practice helps keep her credible among physician colleagues.
She says the move from an exclusively clinical role to her new information management position led her to seek information about what others are doing and what they have found to be helpful.
"In the past, information systems departments did things with no input from physicians, and they gave us stuff that wasn't helpful in managing patient care," she says.
Bretagne attributes what he calls a "tremendous response to the survey" to the fact that it is "one of those topics right on the horizon . . . . that absolutely needs to be dealt with. Everybody's at the same point as far as how to make the partnership (between physicians and information departments) work."
The survey highlights opportunities for collaborative efforts, he says, including the possibility that the CHIME might develop a pre-conference day for physicians and CIO peers as part of a fall forum.
Another study conducted recently for the same organization revealed that information system expenditures represented more than 5% of the total budgets for healthcare facilities and networks in 1996.
That figure came on the heels of an information systems budget percentage of nearly 5% in 1995, continuing evidence that healthcare is breaking out of its traditional 2% to 4% allocation of total funds to information systems, says Richard Correll, CHIME president.
The expenditure survey, conducted by HCIA, a Baltimore-based information services company, found the increase in budget allocation was propelled by a level of capital spending on information technology that hit almost 16% of total capital expenses in 1995 and climbed to 19% in 1996.