Connecting electronically with physicians is a top priority for health system executives, according to the 11th annual HIMSS Leadership Survey.
Survey results were released at the Health Information and Management Systems Society meeting last month in Dallas and covered such topics as information technology priorities, IT utilization, IT budgets, computer-based patient records and Web applications.
Although only 16% of the 500 respondents currently use their Web sites to communicate with physicians, it's a top priority for the future: 41% said they will begin using their Web sites to connect with physicians in the next two years. More than 30% of respondents plan to place patient health assessment tools on their sites within the next two years. Today's Web sites are primarily used for marketing and advertising, as 91% of respondents said their Web sites currently are focused on external communications.
When asked which emerging information technologies their organizations are most likely to begin using in the next two years, 48% of respondents said Web transactions and e-business, followed by voice recognition with 34%.
"The future is online," says Russell Ricci, IBM Global Healthcare Industry president. IBM sponsored the survey.
"Healthcare today has an illness, an illness of too much paper. Information technology is the prescription this industry needs."
The survey asked respondents to rank their most important business and IT priorities. With the release of HIPAA regulations imminent, it is not surprising that technology concerns dominated the business priorities, and 70% of respondents said HIPAA compliance was a top business priority. Improving efficiency was ranked a top priority by another 61%. E-health and improving care led the remaining nonfinancial issues.
The most important IT priority for healthcare organizations over the next 12 months is deploying Internet technology, according to 62% of respondents.
Upgrading systems for HIPAA and upgrading network infrastructure were the next most frequently mentioned priorities.
Although HIPAA compliance is a priority, most health systems have not yet made much progress on that front: only 5% are highly knowledgeable about the HIPAA security requirements, 8% are very knowledgeable, 27% are knowledgeable, 50% are somewhat knowledgeable, and 10% are not at all knowledgeable.
The majority of the survey respondents were CIOs or senior IT managers. More than half of the respondents were from not-for-profit integrated delivery systems, about 20% represented stand-alone hospitals, and the remainder were from a variety of healthcare organizations, including group practices, long-term care facilities and HMOs.
The biggest challenge facing IT professionals seemed to be convincing bosses that IT is important. Twenty-two percent said difficulty in proving return on investment was their most significant barrier for implementing IT, while 21% said it was insufficient funding.