Moving toward an electronic health record remained the top healthcare information technology systems priority, although other applications gained ground, according to respondents to this year's annual Modern Healthcare Survey of Executive Opinions on Key Information Technology Issues.
Survey respondents were asked to select only four of a possible 16 priority items on which their organizations are most likely to focus in the coming 24 months.
Slightly more than 54% of the 344 respondents to the survey this yearconducted in late 2006picked EHR development as a key goal. That made it the most popular choice once again this year, but last year, 65% of survey respondents picked EHRs as among their top priorities.
Similarly, developing or implementing a clinical IT system to improve patient-care capabilities dipped somewhat as a priority this year. Chosen by slightly more than 44% of respondents in the current survey, it was again the second most commonly selected IT priority, though it too dropped in popularity somewhat, down from the choice of nearly 52% of respondents last year.
Efficiency and money figured more prominently in the selections this year, as the choice to "improve productivity and reduce costs" rose to third in the priority rankings this year, selected by roughly 37% of respondents, up from fifth and chosen by 33% of survey participants in last year's survey. Improving decision support for clinicians ranked fourth in the current survey, chosen by 36%, down from 40% last year.
New to the rankings this yearand perhaps reflecting the increased pressure by government, payers and accreditation organizations on transparencythe demand for IT systems to "collect data for quality reports (CMS, Joint Commission and others)" debuted with not quite 24% of survey takers putting it atop their priority lists.
David Garets, president and chief executive officer of HIMSS Analytics, the IT market research subsidiary of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, finds no surprise in the relative decline in the importance of EHRs as an IT priority or the relative rise of moneythe latter of which Garets predicts will continue.
"About 62% of the healthcare organizations based in the U.S. have already made a decision about their (EHR) vendors and are starting an implementation or already have a part of an EHR in place, at least the foundation of it," Garets says.
So the focus is shifting to get value out of those IT investments, he explains.
"They've spent a kajillion dollars, but now they need the data out of it to improve efficiency and report to the Joint Commission, and their focus is now shifting," Garets adds. "We're seeing that in a ton of places, and with good reason. You've spent a lot of money, and now youve got to document you're getting the value out of it.
"I think next year youll see more stuff on the financial side," Garets says, as providers beef up the financial side of the house to meet new federal requirements for data systems to be able to electronically send claims attachments to payers, and get ready for the conversion to ICD-10 billing codes and pay-for-performance schemes.
"There is a lot of stuff coming down that's going to force the issue on the need for IT," Garets says.
This story initially appeared in the Feb. 26 edition of Modern Healthcare magazine.
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