HIMSS leadership study to-do list: Keep patients happy, safe, and get rid of paper

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Patient satisfaction and safety are the two biggest healthcare issues that will be faced in coming years, and along with that comes the implementation of health IT initiatives to boost patient satisfaction and reduce medical errors. These conclusions come from the 17th Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey released yesterday. The survey, co-sponsored by ACS Healthcare Solutions, includes responses from more than than 200 IT executives who manage the technology operations at more than 473 U.S. hospitals.
Concerns over patient satisfaction is on the rise as a top business concern, with a bit more than half the respondents (51 percent) placing it as the most pressing issue -- a rise from 44 percent in last year’s results. But the worries don’t stop there, other major business issues cited include Medicare cutbacks (50 percent) and reducing medical errors (44 percent), according to the survey.
    Half of those taking the survey believe that instituting health IT programs is paramount in reducing medical errors and bringing about improved patient safety. Of all health IT applications, 61 percent of executive respondents view electronic medical records (EMR) as the most vital to seeing these improvements to fruition.    
    “It’s gratifying to see that hospitals and healthcare systems are placing such importance on patient satisfaction,” said Blackford Middleton, MD, MPH, chairman of the HIMSS board of directors, corporate director of Clinical Informatics Research & Development and chairman of the Center for IT Leadership at the Partners Healthcare System, and professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. “After all, it’s really all about the patient experience and providing the safest care, best service and high quality healthcare.”
    Over the next two years, participants noted technologies of importance that include: bar-coding prescription medication (58 percent) and computerized physician order entry (52 percent).     
    This year’s survey added a new twist, asking participants their level of involvement -- if any -- in regional health information organizations (RHIOs). The results indicated that 14 percent participate in one. A RHIO is a cooperative of healthcare organizations in an area, or region, for the purpose of securely exchanging health information electronically.
   
Other survey findings include:

  • Twenty-four percent of respondents have a fully operational EHR system (only 18 percent had them last year), and installation has begun for 36 percent;
  • A breakdown of the most common technologies used among survey participants at their facilities include: high-speed networks (93 percent), wireless information systems, (84 percent), an intranet (84 percent) and computers on wheels (77 percent);
  • Over the next two years the following technologies are seen to be on the rise: single sign-on/identity management (79 percent); bar code technology (69 percent); speech recognition (65 percent); handheld PDAs (62 percent); and automated alerts to clinicians (61 percent);
  • Security at healthcare organizations – especially regarding internal breach of electronic medical information – is still a key concern and was cited by 51 percent, but down slightly from last year (55 percent); and
  • According to the survey, healthcare organizations use their web sites for the following purposes: marketing and promotion (91 percent), employee recruitment (91 percent), online provider directories (83 percent) and providing consumer health information (74 percent). But respondents indicated they have plans to expand the web to such areas as patient scheduling and secure and authenticated online access to their medical records.