Healthcare CIOs say they're optimistic that IT can help to dramatically improve patient care, but it will take time. And the types of challenges that IT leaders face in all industries -- such as high equipment costs and end-user resistance -- could limit what IT can actually deliver and how fast it can do so.
"This is really going to take a lot of work and a lot of evolution. It's going to take a little bit of carrot, a little bit of stick and time to get there," says William Spooner, CIO at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego.
The U.S. government is providing the carrot and stick. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides $19 billion in incentives to health care providers that demonstrate they are engaged in "meaningful use" of EHR systems, but providers that don't meet the government's meaningful-use guidelines by 2015 face cuts in their Medicare reimbursements.
What Doctors and Nurses Want
Half of healthcare providers are using some form of electronic health record system; 34% have a comprehensive system and 16% have a partial system, according to a July survey by the Computing Technology Industry Association. Overall, 56% of doctors and nurses rated their EHR system as satisfactory, while 41% fell into the middle category of "partly satisfied/partly dissatisfied."
Top reasons healthcare providers adopt EHR systems:
1. Better patient care
2. Save time, improve efficiency
3. Reduce errors or the risk of errors
4. Improve staff productivity
Improvements doctors would like to see in EHR systems:
1. Increased speed
2. Easier to use, less complex
3. Lower cost
4. Removal of unnecessary functions
5. Greater interoperability with other systems
(Tie) Better remote access
Most commonly used EHR software features:
4. Computerized physician order entry
5. Medications management
Top reasons for not adopting EHR systems:
1. Upfront costs
2. Ongoing operational costs
3. Impact on existing workflow or processes
4. Training and user-adoption issues
Base: 300 U.S. healthcare providers, including doctors, dentists, nurses, physician assistants and office managers; multiple responses allowed.
Source: Computing Technology Industry Association survey on healthcare IT, July 2010