CompTIA, the nonprofit IT association for the IT industry, has released its "Third Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities" study showing small physician practices continuing to complement laptops and desktop PCs with smartphones and tablets but slow to adopt cloud computing services.
The organization conducted the study, announced on Nov. 16, to find out where companies are making investments in health care. It performed the research from late July to early August. CompTIA interviewed 350 health care professionals and 400 IT firms with a foothold in health care.
More than 80 percent of IT solutions providers surveyed foresee an increase in revenue from health care, according to the report.
Of health care providers in the study, one-quarter have integrated tablets into their workflow.
Implementing or improving their use of mobile technologies is a high or mid-level priority for two-thirds of respondents over the next year, according to the report.
One-third of providers surveyed already access electronic health records (EHRs) on mobile devices.
"We do see some starting to interact with EHR systems," Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA, told eWEEK.
Doctors and their staff are using smartphones and tablets to complement laptops and desktop PCs as reference tools to check drug interactions or medical literature while still entering data on PCs, Herbert said.
"[Smartphones and tablets] do provide a more efficient means to check a drug interaction or specific literature as opposed to going back to the office," he said.
Despite their use of mobile devices, health care organizations are slow to adopt cloud computing, with only 5 percent of health care practices adopting cloud platforms. In addition, 57 percent of respondents had a "low familiarity" with cloud computing, a technology that allows companies to store data on a hosted network rather than locally.
"It will be a little bit of time before mainstream adoption of cloud computing," Herbert said.
Still, with some practices using software-as-a-service (SAAS) applications, they may not be aware they're using the cloud, according to Herbert. With EHR applications accessible via cloud platforms, providers are interested in moving to the cloud, Herbert noted.
"Many of the EHR vendors are looking at cloud solutions, and that is one way that will increase familiarity or utilization," he said.
A lack of interoperability of data standards also presents a challenge to health care practices. Data resides in silos among primary doctors, labs and specialists. As a result doctors are unsure how to access multiple EHR systems on mobile devices.
"That is an area the data suggests there continues to be some uncertainty and concern about how those devices will integrate into those systems," Herbert said.
Because small physician practices lack the IT departments found in hospitals, their use of technology is not as advanced as the larger facilities, he said. Practices are trying to gain an understanding of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy laws and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that brings incentives for meaningful use of EHRs. They need training on how to comply with these laws and how to use EHR applications, Herbert said.
More than 53 percent of health care firms surveyed by the nonprofit HIMSS Analytics, the research and analytics organization for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), were unlikely to meet the government's meaningful-use criteria, despite a 16 percent increase in readiness.
Even as other industries such as banking employs online tools, health care lags in common online activities such as email between doctors and patients as well as the ability to schedule appointments on practices' Websites, Herbert said.
"We continue to be surprised by the underutilization of some of the basics of a Website or email by those in the health care industry," Herbert said.