Survey: Hospital CIOs Want Electronic Medical Records

After being a bit tepid the last couple of years, hospitals are moving forward with EMRs, according to an HIMSS survey of CIOs evaluating IT capabilities and priorities.

This may be a breakthrough year for electronic medical records at hospitals. Thats according a survey of more than 200 health care executives, mostly CIOs, at U.S. hospitals released this week by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society at its annual conference.

Almost one-quarter of hospital leaders surveyed reported that their organizations have a fully operational electronic medical record system. Thats even with a relatively strict definition of EMRs as the record that maintains an individuals "lifetime health status in a completely paperless fashion." This figure is up from the less than one-fifth that reported having functioning EMRs in 2005 and in 2004.

Forty percent of hospitals have signed a contract for an EMR system or actually initiated installation—thats comparable to each of the last couple years. Almost one-quarter more have plans to implement an EMR, but havent begun to yet.

Only about one-tenth of hospitals surveyed have no plans at all to implement electronic medical records; that figure has declined rapidly since 2004 when more than one-fifth of those surveyed said their hospital had no plans for an EMR system.

Still, hospitals are largely reticent about connecting their local EMR systems to regional health networks. About three-quarters say they dont have any plans to participate in an RHIO (regional health information organization).

Only 14 percent of hospitals surveyed actually participate in an RHIO. For most hospitals there arent even any regional networking options even available yet; about one-fifth of organizations reported that they have an RHIO in their area.

/zimages/1/28571.gifThe national health IT coordinator says creating effective regional health information organizations is the next step for health care IT. Click here to read more.

Among the top technologies that hospitals have already implemented are high-speed networks (93 percent), wireless information systems (84 percent, up from 79 percent in 2005) and intranets (84 percent, down from 86 percent in 2005).

At the top of hospitals IT wish list for the next two years is single-sign-on identity management software; currently almost four-fifths report expecting to have it in place in a few years, while only a little more than one-fifth already have it. About two-third of hospitals hope to have the other most popular IT technologies—bar coding, speech recognition and PDAs—up and running in the next two years.

Hospitals surveyed also hope to expand the functionality of their Web sites. Almost three-quarters want to offer patients the ability to schedule appointments online. And about two-thirds are interested in offering a physician portal.

Hospital execs also report being increasingly satisfied with their suppliers, application vendors and consulting firms. This year 78 percent are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with vendor performance. Thats a vast improvement from 69 percent last year.

And they are more interested in outsourcing IT functions. Currently almost four-fifths of respondents outsource some part of their IT. Thats up from 71 percent last year. Dictation and transcription services as well as applications development are outsourced the most often. In the future, hospital execs expect to be outsourcing dictation and transcription, help desk and PC support most frequently.

As budgets continue to increase, IT staffing is now also on the rise in hospitals. About three-quarters expect to increase their hospital IT budget, on par with the last couple of years. And a similar percentage of respondents anticipate increasing their full-time IT staff. Thats up dramatically from two-thirds last year and 60 percent in 2004.

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