Of those 85% foreseeing increases in IT operating expenses, a near majority (49%) predicted a rise in the range of 6% to 10%, with another 27% expecting increases of 5% or less.
Meanwhile, with $27 billion in federal incentive payments on the line, meeting the meaningful-use requirements needed to qualify and get paid has galvanized the attention of leaders.
Asked to name their top 10 IT system priorities in the next 24 months, 73% chose meeting meaningful-use criteria, far and away the top priority. Improving patient-care capabilities for clinical quality and patient safety came second at 43%, followed by moving toward an electronic health-record system, 30%.
Meaningful use also is driving priorities for specific IT system functions.
Chosen as the top-three IT projects planned but not yet started by their organizations were three technologies—patient portals (30%), personal health-record systems (29%) and health information exchange (27%). All three are tools to meet meaningful-use priorities, either now or in the future, to better engage patients by providing electronic access to their healthcare information.
Among IT projects to be implemented in the next 12 months, joining an exchange ranked No. 1 (23%), launching a patient portal was No. 2 at 22%, and adding a PHR was No. 4 at 18%. (Improved cost tracking—not a meaningful-use requirement—was No. 3 at 19%.)
Dr. William Bria is the chief medical information officer for the Tampa, Fla.-based Shriners Hospitals for Children and president of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems.
Bria says “most forward-thinking” healthcare organizations are planning to capitalize on the federal IT incentives, but for some, which are only starting serious planning, “people are finding out what's what and what it's going to take, and they're finding out it's going to take real money to make this conversion. They're starting to sober up.” Timing, too, is an issue, he says.
Bria was just returning from an IT meeting attended by leaders from multiple healthcare organizations. Someone queried the audience whether they thought their organizations would meet the meaningful-use objectives in 2011. “One, guy, basically, had his hand up,” Bria says. Then the question was asked again, but for 2012. “Fifty guys raised their hands.”