Study: U.S. healthcare ready to allocate more money for IT

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Sixty-six percent of U.S. healthcare providers are expected to increase their information technology budgets by at least 10 percent between now and 2006.

The numbers come from market research firm Datamonitor and its survey of more than 100 U.S. healthcare IT decision-makers. The report says that technologies that facilitate higher quality of both patient care and enablement of clinical staff will be "significant areas of imminent IT investment."

Datamonitor credits reports of "very high fatality numbers caused by medical errors each year" as one reason for the hike in IT investment. The study adds that 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, the report states, is the Bush administration's proposal to develop standards for healthcare data interchange and also the JCAHO's (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) proposed patient safety goals which would require bar-code technology at the patient bed side by 2007, says Panni Kanyuk, Datamonitor senior healthcare analyst.

Datamonitor's survey also found that U.S. healthcare institutions with 500 to 999 beds are "the most advanced and aggressive in terms of new technology investment. Low mid-tier providers are focusing their IT efforts on integrating clinical information into a single, enterprise-wide information repository."

Remote access for clinicians, inpatient and outpatient systems integration and PACS are key issues specific to high mid-tier providers. Among high-end providers, information system implementations -- such as computerized physician order entry (CPOE), electronic medical records (EMR), lab, radiology and pharmacy, are top priority issues.

Other key findings include:

  • Almost 60 percent of healthcare providers are considering Internet Protocol (IP) for clinical process improvements: accessing clinical data over the phone along with nurse call applications being the top two uses cited;

  • 62 percent of respondents cited wireless enablement of the clinical trial documentation process as a top-of-mind priority;
  • 44 percent of providers have already implemented some form of storage solution, with HPCompaq, IBM and EMC Corp. representing three-fourths of provider respondents' choice storage brands.