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Hospital IT managers credit the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 as the driving force behind their current healthcare IT investments, according to a study released Monday by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) to coincide with its annual conference in Orlando, Fla.
The report is one of the clearest indications yet that the Obama administration's stimulus spending, which established the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs to help providers adopt and achieve meaningful use of EHRs, has spurred hospital spending on health IT modernization -- a measure that will transform and improve the quality of patient care for decades to come.
According to the findings of the 22nd annual HIMSS leadership survey, which interviewed 326 IT executives representing nearly 700 hospitals, 68% of respondents indicated that they were going to make additional investments to position their organization to qualify for incentives as a result of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted as part of the ARRA. This represents an increase from the 59% of respondents who reported this was the case in the 2010 study.
Half of the respondents noted that achieving meaningful use would be their top IT priority over the next two years; 42% said they planned to spend at least $1 million to achieve Stage 1 meaningful use requirements; and 81% said they expected their organizations to qualify for Stage 1 by 2011 or 2012.
"The ARRA clearly remains the top force in healthcare IT, and likely will for some time," C. Martin Harris, HIMSS board chair, and chief information officer at the Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement.
When asked to identify the level of investment that they made to achieve Stage 1 of meaningful use, 23% said they invested between $1 million and $5 million and 19% invested $5 million or more. Slightly more than one quarter of respondents (27%) spent less than $1 million while 8% of respondents indicated that their organization made no additional investment to achieve Stage 1 of meaningful use. The remaining respondents either did not know the answer to this question or refrained from disclosing the investment made at their organization.
IT executives were also asked to disclose how much money their organizations would receive for meeting Stage 1 meaningful use requirements. Only 1% of respondents reported that they would not receive incentives in Stage 1. The below list identifies how much money organizations anticipate they will receive for their investment.
-- Less than $2 million: 16%
-- $2 million to $3 million: 12%
-- $4 million to $5 million: 16%
-- $6 million to $7 million: 9%
-- $8 million to $9 million: 8%
-- $10 million or more: 20%
The remaining 18% of respondents either preferred not to disclose the level of money they expected to receive or did not know the amount.
The report also revealed that 76% expected increases in their organization's IT operating budget, up slightly from last year's 72%, but a significant increase from 2009's 55%. And 64% said they anticipated an increase in the number of IT staff. However, the lack of budget and staff are major barriers to IT implementation, according to respondents: lack of adequate support for IT was named by 18% (although down from 24% a year ago), barely eking out a lack of staffing resources (17%).
"Although spending levels are up after a dip a few years ago, respondents worry that lack of staffing could be a barrier to successful IT implementation, which is particularly concerning in light of the obvious increasing need in the next few years," HIMSS chair Harris observed.
Other HIMSS 2011 leadership survey results relating to the impact of health IT include:
-- Electronic Health Records: Fifty-three percent of respondents said they have a fully operational EHR in at least one facility in their organization, up from 48% last year.
-- ICD-10: Nearly half of the respondents (48%) reported that implementing the CPT-10/ICD-10 coding system was the top area of focus for financial IT systems at their organization.
-- Health Information Exchange: Forty-five percent of respondents indicated that their organization participates in at least one HIE in their area; 31% say they have not yet planned to participate in an HIE, down from 41% in 2010.
-- Security: About one-quarter (26%) said their organization has had a security breach in the past 12 months, similar to 2010 (23%).
-- Patient Care: Among a list of choices indicating in which area IT can have the biggest impact on patient care, 41% named clinical and quality outcomes, up from 37% in 2010.