HIMSS coverage: Patient safety tops healthcare concerns

February 14, 2003

Implementing technologies that will reduce medical errors and improve patient safety is the chief concern of healthcare IT executives, according to a survey released this week by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

Implementing technologies that will reduce medical errors and improve patient safety is the chief concern of healthcare IT executives, according to a survey released this week by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

According to the 14th annual survey, more than half (52%) of the nearly 300 executives who responded indicated that reduction of medical errors through promotion of patient safety measures is currently a top IT priority at their hospital. Fifty-nine percent said patient safety would be a top priority within two years, and 63% believe it to be one of the five business issues that will have the greatest impact on healthcare in the next two years.

Issues related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was the top concern in last year's survey. While it remains a priority, HIPAA dropped to number two this year.

Interest in patient safety was reflected in the topics selected for presentation this week at the HIMSS annual meeting. It was the subject of 35 of the approximately 170 educational sessions, roundtables, workshops, symposia, and electronic posters offered at the meeting, following only IT infrastructure (46) and leadership/management issues (38). Patient safety was the subject of 15 additional vendor product sessions.

"Since the Institute of Medicine reports came out revealing the high prevalence of medical errors, healthcare organizations have been searching for ways to address the problem," said Richard Duncan, chair of the HIMSS board of directors.

IT technologies, in the form of systems such as computer-based physician order entry (CPOE) and barcoded medication management, are an important part of the solution.

Respondents to the survey were asked to identify the healthcare application areas they believe will be important to their facility over the next two years. Among the top responses were CPOE (64%), clinical information systems (53%), and barcoded medication management (46%).

The survey also revealed that nearly 20% of respondents now have a fully operational computerized patient record (CPR) system, up from 13% in the past two years, while another 20% said they haven't yet begun to plan for a CPR, down 10% from 2002.