Patient safety concerns remain, and will continue to be, a top priority and business issue for CEOs and other senior executives of information technology (IT) vendor organizations who responded to the 15th Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey, sponsored by Superior Consultant Company, Inc.  This finding is consistent with the federal government's increased focus on making electronic medical records (EMRs) nationally available during the next 10 years.   

"As the industry strives for improved patient safety, information technology provides the strategy and solution to that challenge," said Larry Dux, chair of the HIMSS Board of Directors.  "Reaching this goal requires an integrated approach to implementing the electronic medical record with all segments of the healthcare industry."

Other findings reported in the survey include:

  • As deadlines pass, emphasis will decrease on IT implementation for HIPAA compliance: Upgrading security on IT systems and implementing privacy modifications to meet the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) remain among the top current IT priorities for vendor clients; however, a sharp decline in importance is expected within the next two years.
  • Clinical applications for information technology selected as the most important applications in the next two years: The top three healthcare applications areas vendors considered to be among the most important for their clients over the next two years are all clinical.  EMRs were cited most frequently (60 percent), followed by computer-based practitioner order entry (CPOE) (55 percent), and clinical information systems (47 percent).
  • Easy and efficient access to information and data security rank as the most important technologies now in use: High-speed networks (54 percent), data security (49 percent), and bar coding (43 percent) were most frequently cited as technologies vendors considered most important to their healthcare clients now.  High-speed networks and bar coding technology showed the greatest increases in importance compared to 2003 results.
  • Adoption of speech recognition technology expected to increase: Vendors most frequently identified wireless information systems (60 percent), Web-enabled clinical processes (46 percent), and Web-enabled business transactions (44 percent) as technologies they considered among the most important to their healthcare clients in the next two years.  Focus on speech recognition is predicted to increase substantially with 32 percent of respondents indicating this will be among the most important technologies in the next two years, compared to only 6 percent who indicated it was among the top technologies now.
  • Use of biometric technology for data security is predicted to increase: Biometric technology (56 percent), electronic signature (48 percent) and data encryption (47 percent) were most often identified by vendors as security tools that will be the most important to healthcare organizations in the next two years.  Only 6 percent of respondents identified biometric technology as among the most important security tools at this time.
  • IT outsourcing continues with no expected revenue reduction for vendors: Two-thirds of vendor respondents (67 percent) predicted their revenues would increase in the next 12 months due to outsourcing on the part of their clients.  None projected a decrease in revenue.
  • Demonstrable ROI is the primary barrier to the vendor/client relationship:  Proving return on investment, or quantifiable benefits, to their clients was identified as the top barrier to implementing IT at client facilities, according to respondents.  The next most frequently cited barrier was the lack of adequate financial support for IT.  

Vendors identified three key staffing needs for healthcare organizations: Vendors most frequently identified systems integration as an area in which their clients have staffing needs, followed by process/workflow design and clinical champions.  (Clinical champions are clinicians and other healthcare providers who encourage the adoption and implementation of best practices and tools and technologies to improve performance in practice settings and other clinical areas.) 
"The results of the vendor portion of this survey, along with the previously released provider CIO results, indicate that both constituencies are on the same wavelength in terms of their healthcare IT priorities," said Charles O. Bracken, executive vice president of Superior Consultant Company.  "IT vendors will play an important role in forging partnerships with healthcare organizations to provide products and services designed to reduce medical errors and ultimately improve patient safety."

Senior-level executives from 83 different IT, vendor, supplier and consultant organizations in the United States completed the self-administered, Web-based questionnaire between November 2003 and January 2004.  The majority of survey participants (84 percent) indicated that three-quarters or more of their company's business is focused on the healthcare industry.  Healthcare market segments targeted by respondent organizations include: hospital/health system (81 percent), physician office/clinic (57 percent), health plan/insurer/payer (39 percent), other healthcare facilities (33 percent), including nursing homes or home health agencies, federal government market (20 percent) and pharmaceutical industry (18 percent).

Complete survey results are available at www.himss.org/leadershipsurvey

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