Asked, What do you project will happen with your organizations IT capital expenses over the next three years? 64.6% foresaw increases, while 9.7% estimated a decrease and 25.7% expected no change.
Sharon Phelps is director of information systems for West Park Hospital, a 25-bed, critical-access facility in Cody, Wyo., population 8,835, the county seat of Park County in the far northwestern corner of the state. The county is six times the size of Rhode Island. But with just about 25,700 residents, it holds around 2.4% of Rhode Islands population.
Like hospitals in urban areas, West Park is making an effort to improve its IT lot. I dont think were gliding, Phelps says. I think were pushing or pulling, but were looking at it, where well go strategically and where well go in terms of regulatory requirements.
Park County is currently in the range of spending 0.5% or less of its operating budget on IT, which seems to make it an outlier on the extreme low end of the survey spread and among only 5.5% of survey respondents who reported spending in that category. It also has allocated 10% or less of the hospitals capital budget on IT during the past three years and probably will do so again in the next three, which places the hospital in the same company as roughly one-third of all survey respondents.
Phelps says the operating budget numbers are skewed because both the radiology department, with its new MRI and picture archiving and communications system, and the hospitals telecommunications expenses, are not included in her IT department budget as they often are at other facilities.
Phelps says Park Countys modest budget numbers may jump in the next couple of years as the hospital looks to move from its Meditech Magic legacy system to a client-server architecture. The idea is for Park County to better avail itself of a more modern user interface and an expanded portfolio of clinical applications, all in preparation for adding high-end, decision-support tools, such as computerized physician order entry, that physicians will want to use. But the move carries with it a budget worry, Phelps says.
Moving to a client-server platform, we dont know if its going to require more people, and as we move to more clinical applications, just the staff to support those might go up, she says. Its really hard to get the docs to the table and play in some decision-support environment if they dont have all their data available. All youll do is frustrate them. Weve been working hard to get all those pieces together.
David Garets, president and chief executive officer of HIMSS Analytics, the market information arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, says the market outlook is not a gray, dismal picture, but I think its going to be slower than it has been. The HIMSS Analytics crystal ball shows at best a five-year, compound annual growth rate of 5%, a number that includes both capital and operating expenses. According to Garets, Phelps is right to keep an eye on what systems upgrades might do, not only to her capital budget, but also to her operating budget.