The practice of medicine is on the cusp of a revolution, and informatics professionals are going to lead the charge.
That was the message conveyed at last month's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in Atlanta.
"Information technology is really going to change the practice of medicine," says Barry Chaiken, M.D., vice president of clinical marketing for Alpharetta, Ga.-based McKesson Corp.
According to HIMSS' 13th annual leadership survey, released at the conference, chief information officers and other IT executives still believe that upgrading security in anticipation of HIPAA is the most pressing issue in healthcare IT; 74% say clinical applications will overtake HIPAA within two years.
Patient safety is the No. 2 issue for the IT executives, both this year and next, the survey says.
"We've always been very concerned about safety, but when you get reports out of the government highlighting the issue, people take notice," says Greg Walton, HIMSS chairman.
The quasi-governmental Institute of Medicine has published two landmark studies on medical errors since 1999.
Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner Corp., one of the industry's largest electronic medical records vendors, announced last fall that it plans to add 2,200 new jobs-including spots for six physician executives-by the end of 2003.
But one hurdle stands in the way of IT proliferation: physicians' reluctance to adopt new technology. "We're now not measuring success in terms of sales. We're measuring it based on adoption," says Robert Connely, vice president for Web technology at McKesson.
Cerner's recently appointed CMO, Jeffery Rose, M.D., says that adoption of technology is crucial to maximizing revenue and improving physicians' job satisfaction.
"We're at the wall," Rose says. "We can't work harder; we can't see more patients. This is a very important time to make the shift."
A Harris Interactive survey commissioned by McKesson and released at HIMSS indicates 86% of physicians and 84% of nurses believe clinical information systems will make the practice of medicine easier and improve the quality of care within five years. But only 12% of respondents say they have used any sort of advanced clinical support tool.
Chaiken says adoption has been slow among hospitals and large health systems in part because boards of trustees and administrators do not understand all the benefits of clinical IT.
Cerner's Rose, an interventional radiologist, recommends that physicians learn to see IT professionals as supporters rather than adversaries.
"A lot of docs don't want to surrender the data to anybody else, including hospitals," Rose says.