Measuring Up

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 - Mary C. Tierney
Mary C. Tierney

As the adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure—and IT is keeping track as we quest to improve the quality of healthcare delivery while reducing its overall cost. For the past few weeks, we’ve been elbow deep in nominations for our annual Top Connected Healthcare Facilities, appreciating the intricacies and complexities of connecting clinicians to facilitate effective patient care.  This year’s winners—which you will see on page 8—include multi-hospital organizations and health systems, academic medical centers, two community hospitals, a cancer care center, and an imaging center, spread across 15 states. Nineteen of the Top Connected facilities have deployed EMRs that are Stage 5 (per HIMSS Analytics) or above. Four are Stage 7. All have deployed diverse, advanced, integrated portfolios of IT and imaging systems that enable knowledge sharing and decision-making capabilities to 96 to 100 percent of physicians.

Continuing to brave the recession, we couldn’t help slicing and dicing the Top Connected data a bit more to see where healthcare IT stands in terms of growth and investment. If we expand the scope to all of the facilities that submitted nominations, we see that one-third report no changes to purchasing related to the economic recession. Only 5 percent have cancelled purchases of IT infrastructure or clinical systems and applications. But budgets have been hit hard, being reduced by 40 percent of facilities. A third have reduced staff to compensate for declines in revenue; while just over a quarter have a hiring freeze. Just more than a quarter of the IT executives report postponing purchases of clinical IT systems, applications and infrastructure.

Imaging procedures continue to grow. Over the past 12 months, a third of the total facilities report 1 to 5 percent growth, while 20 percent of facilities have seen procedures increase 6 to 10 percent. About 15 percent of the survey base has seen growth in the range of 11 to 15 percent. Only 13 percent say imaging procedure growth has been flat—and none report a decline. Similarly, the total data facilities are managing are growing about 6 to 10 percent a year in more than a quarter of facilities, while 17 percent are increasing 11 to 15 percent growth.

How are physicians accessing patient data and images? Through an EMR (84 percent), web portal (76 percent), VPN (76 percent) and directly in the operating room (54 percent). About a third of physicians view data and images on their smartphones. CDs and DVDs remain a popular image communication method too, with 68 percent of facilities utilizing them.

For five years now, we’ve been tracking progress in connecting healthcare organizations. We’ve come a long way—and the ARRA investment will likely propel us further forward.