The use of information technology in the nation's hospitals is growing, but remains fairly low with only 10% having fully implemented systems, according to an American Hospital Association survey of more than 900 community hospital chief executive officers.
Chantal Worzala, the AHA's senior associate director for policy, says the survey -- conducted between April and June -- "may not be earth-shaking," but is the most in-depth study of its kind to date and provides a good snapshot of the current hospital IT picture.
Use of IT will be "evolutionary," Worzala says, meaning that hospitals are adopting technology in incremental steps -- usually one department at a time -- and installing new systems that address their specific priorities.
What Worzala says impresses her the most is that 92% of the hospitals surveyed say they are using, testing or actively considering adopting an IT system. "I think we were encouraged by the real commitment to IT," she says.
More than half (53%) of the hospitals have fully or partially implemented a bar-coding system for laboratory specimen management, 40% for management of supplies and 37% for patient identification.
The median capital investment hospitals are making each year on IT is more than $700,000 and represents 15% of all capital expenses. IT operating costs are even higher -- $1.7 million -- but represent only 2% of all operating expenses.
Not surprisingly, initial costs are seen as the No. 1 barrier to adoption, followed by ongoing costs. With this in mind, the report concluded that hospitals need some outside help to accelerate IT use.
"These survey results suggest that accelerating the forward momentum and achieving universal adoption of IT will require a shared investment between providers, payers and purchasers," the report said. "Hospitals currently bear almost all the costs of IT investment, with no increases in payments. But many of the financial benefits of IT, such as decreased need for repeat tests, lower readmission rates and shorter lengths of stay, accrue to those who pay for the care."
"We're really looking for a shared investment here where all these parties can chip in," Worzala says.