Patient safety, cost move to top of IT business priority list

June 14, 2004

Patient safety is the top priority and primary business issue among senior executives of IT vendors, according to a survey sponsored by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The society concluded these concerns are underscored by the

Patient safety is the top priority and primary business issue among senior executives of IT vendors, according to a survey sponsored by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The society concluded these concerns are underscored by the development of electronic medical records.

The HIMSS has conducted 15 such surveys over as many years. This one identified patient privacy as an important but diminishing issue, as deadlines in the implementation of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules have come and gone. Milestones along the way include upgrading security on IT systems and implementing privacy modifications.

Senior-level executives from 83 different IT, vendor, supplier, and consultant organizations in the U.S. completed the self-administered, Web-based questionnaire between November 2003 and January 2004. The majority of survey participants (84%) indicated that three-quarters or more of their company's business is focused on the healthcare industry.

They picked EMRs, computer-based practitioner order entry, and clinical information systems as being among the most important issues for their clients over the next two years.

Easy and efficient access to information and data security ranked as the most important technological challenges. Respondents chose high-speed networks (54%), data security (49%), and barcoding (43%) as the most important issues for their clients. High-speed networks and barcoding technology showed the greatest increases in importance compared with 2003 results.

Adoption of speech recognition technology is expected to increase, with 32% of respondents indicating this will be among the most important technologies in the next two years, compared with only 6% who indicated it was among the top technologies now. Vendors most frequently identified wireless information systems (60%), Web-enabled clinical processes (46%), and Web-enabled business transactions (44%) as technologies they considered among the most important to their healthcare clients in the next two years.

Biometric technology (56%), electronic signature (48%), and data encryption (47%) were most often identified by vendors as security tools that will be the most important to healthcare organizations in the next two years. Only 6% of respondents identified biometric technology as among the most important security tools at this time.

IT outsourcing continues with no expected revenue reduction for vendors. Two-thirds of respondents predicted their revenues would increase in the next 12 months due to outsourcing by their clients. None projected a revenue decrease.

Proving return on investment, or quantifiable benefits, to their clients was identified as the top barrier to implementing IT at client facilities. The next most frequently cited barrier was the lack of adequate financial support for IT.

Vendors identified three key staffing needs for healthcare organizations: Systems integration was identified most frequently as an area in which their clients have staffing needs, followed by process/workflow design and clinical champions.