Study: Health Care Providers to Spend More on IT

Fatal medical errors and stronger government support are driving major providers' plans to boost IT budgets by more than 10 percent in the next few years, the Datamonitor report suggests.

Two-thirds of major health care providers are planning to grow their IT budgets by more than 10 percent in the next few years, according to a recently released study by industry research firm Datamonitor. The report suggests that concerns over medical errors and stronger support from the federal government will drive the IT budget growth.

"The U.S. health care industry is responding to reports of very high fatality numbers caused by medical errors each year," said Panni Kanyuk, a senior health care analyst at Datamonitor. "Institutions are beginning to wake up to the fact that employing point-of-care IT is one of the ways in which patient safety can be increased and medical errors reduced."

Another contributing factor, Kanyuk said, is "the U.S. governments pronounced interest in health care IT—through President Bushs proposal to develop standards for health care data interchange and also the JCAHOs [Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations] proposed patient safety goals, which would require barcode technology at the patient bedside by 2007."

Leading the IT charge are high-end, midtier health care institutions with anywhere from 500 to 1,000 beds, according to the survey. Remote access for clinicians, in- and out-patient systems integration as well as picture archiving and communications systems are the leading issues for these providers, which are the most advanced and aggressive in their IT investment.

The report found that the most technologically sophisticated health care providers are focused on information system implementations such as computerized physician order entry, electronic medical records, lab, radiology and pharmacy. Meanwhile, it found that the least aggressive institutions are looking to simply integrate clinical information into a single, enterprisewide information repository.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about a House committees work on identifying priorities for health care IT.

Almost 60 percent of health care providers are considering employing IP for clinical process improvements. The top two uses cited were accessing clinical data over the phone and using nurse call applications. And 62 percent of respondents cited using wireless technology for documenting clinical trials as a top-of-mind priority.

"Key IT investment initiatives in 2004 will center on front-end applications on the clinical side—be it automating clinical information systems such as radiology, pharmacy, EMR, lab, or providing remote access to already automated systems in order to make them accessible at the patient bedside," Kanyuk said.

She said such improvements will trigger related needs in IT at the back end, "in particular for security and storage solutions for the cost-efficient management and archiving of vast amounts of confidential patient data and images."

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