March 1, 2010 -- Along with an improving economy, the concept of "meaningful use," is driving increased health care technology investment, according to the 21st Annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) study released today.

Among the high points in the survey, 72 percent of respondents expect their IT budgets to increase, consistent with 2008 levels and a rebound from last year, when only 55 percent predicted an increase. Staffing is also predicted to rebound with 66 percent expecting to increase the number of IT personnel.  

The American Investment and Recovery Act signed into law last year promises financial incentives to providers and hospitals for the "meaningful use" of health care products. Although criteria for meaningful use will not be specified until later this year, 59 percent of health care IT professionals indicated they will make additional investments to qualify for incentives.  

About half (49 percent) of respondents say they now have a fully functional electronic medical record (EMR) system fully operational in at least one facility at their organization. Thirty-five percent say that ensuring the organization has a fully functional EMR will be the primary clinical IT focus this year.

IT governance found great support in the study. Eighty-seven percent of respondents reported strong integration between organizational strategic plans and the IT strategy. Seventy percent of senior IT executives say they sit on the executive committee at their organization.

Health care IT professionals say an internal breach of security is their primary concern, and one-quarter reported a security breach in the last year.

In his keynote address to open the HIMSS conference taking place in Atlanta, Barry Chaiken, M.D., said health care solutions must create the same attraction and demand for use that the Internet and computers created for personal productivity.

"Today, in 2010, we must begin to change healthcare in the same fashion – by creating healthcare I-T solutions that are so compelling, so irresistible, that people just want to use them," said Chaiken. "We cannot rely on incentive programs or executive orders.  We must create demand."

Chaiken called for the creation of systems "so appealing" that physicians will want to leave their paper medical records behind.