It's about the relationships, stupid!
A strong majority of female top hospital leaders see dealing with human factors, not healthcare information technology, as their primary focus for improving patient safety -- an attitude toward IT that reflects the opinions of administrators with clinical backgrounds, regardless of their gender, according to an executive with an IT services firm that surveyed hospital executives.
For example, 150 female hospital chief executive officers were asked, "Do you believe that information technology can or will play a major role in promoting patient safety?" Just 8.7% of the leaders responded that it would play "the most important role" while 91% ranked IT as "one among many tools."
And the lower priority they gave IT was not because they are skeptical of the efficacy of IT systems such as computerized physician order entry or electronic medical records. "Yes" answers were given by 89.9% when asked whether those and similar IT tools were "important to reduce medical errors and increase patient safety."
But when asked what "the most important change a hospital can make when it comes to increasing patient safety" was, technology finished last among four choices, selected by just 8.7% of respondents. The top choice was changing and monitoring the culture of the organization at 50.7%, followed by training and education, 43.3%, and proper reporting and problem identification procedures, 11.3%.
The survey was conducted by PHNS, a Dallas-based IT services provider that has conducted several surveys of hospital officials and their attitudes toward technology, said Rick Kneipper, chief administrative officer and co-founder of PHNS.
Kneipper said the attitudes toward technology of the female CEOs most recently surveyed mirrors that of administrators with clinical backgrounds, both male and female, in previous surveys. Kneipper said his firm's survey work shows, despite the recent hype about IT being the answer to medical errors, that technology is merely one important tool.
"What is being touted as a silver bullet is missing the point," Kneipper said. "You have to take care of the people first, and then take care of the technology."
"I think the leadership style of women is more in vogue now than ever," wrote one of the female hospital leaders surveyed, while another added, "I think women approach problem solving in a different way?more collaborative."
Large startup costs were tabbed by 89% of the respondents as the most important barrier to implementing CPOE, a conclusion reflected on practically every other survey of healthcare leadership on IT issues regardless of gender.