New Survey Shows Information Technology Use in Hospitals Continues to Grow
High Costs, Lack of Standards Seen as Major Obstacles to Greater Adoption
David Allen, AHA - (202) 626-2313
Matt Fenwick, AHA - (312) 422-2820
More and more, hospitals across America are embracing health information technology (IT) and its benefits for quality of care and patient safety, according to survey results released today by the American Hospital Association (AHA). The survey, the AHA's second snapshot of how hospitals are using IT, found that nearly half of all responding community hospitals reported moderate or high use of health IT in 2006, compared to a response of 37 percent in 2005.
Hospitals also reported dramatic increases in the use of computerized alerts to prevent negative drug interactions. In 2006, 51 percent of hospitals were using real-time drug interaction alerts, up from 23 percent in 2005.
"Advances in health IT are changing the way we deliver care," said AHA President Rich Umbdenstock. "Better tools, better information and better ways to share information are critical in our constant quest to provide quality, safe care to the patients we serve."
As the health care debate intensifies, health IT is at the forefront of the conversation. President Bush has called for electronic health records for most Americans within 10 years. Congress has introduced legislation intended to create uniform standards and assist hospitals on the lower end of the IT implementation spectrum. As they are on the front lines of our nation's health care system, hospitals realize the importance of health IT to the well-being of the patients and communities they serve.
Certain kinds of hospitals are further ahead in adoption of health IT. The size of the hospital also plays a considerable role in its IT use. Of the largest hospitals-those with 500 beds or more-74 percent reported moderate or high health IT use in 2006. By contrast, only 23 percent of hospitals with 50 or fewer beds were in the top two levels of IT use. Hospitals in urban areas, teaching hospitals and hospitals with better financial health also used more health IT.
Other key findings include:
- For the first time, the 2006 survey asked specifically about the use of electronic health records (EHRs). Sixty-nine percent of responding hospitals have either fully or partially implemented EHRs.
- Computerized physician order-entry (CPOE), which allows physicians to electronically order medications, tests and consultations, is also gaining ground, especially in hospitals with fully implemented EHRs.
- Spending on health IT systems is high and growing. The median capital spending per bed for system implementation was $5,556 in 2006. The median operating costs, which cover ongoing expenses, were $12,060 per bed, a 4.5 percent increase over 2005.
Hospitals have shown progress in health IT adoption but barriers still remain. Survey respondents identified both the initial and ongoing costs of deploying and maintaining IT systems as the greatest barrier to IT use. Other barriers included the lack of trained staff to implement technology and the lack of interoperability among systems.
In the past, hospitals have been hamstrung by federal anti-kickback and physician self-referral laws, which prevented them from providing their physicians with many of the tools necessary to maintain electronic health records and share clinical data with other members of a patient's care team. But recent HHS rules have lessened those obstacles and provided a clearer roadmap for helping physicians access and use health IT.
However, hospitals have been concerned that, under IRS rules, helping physicians with health IT could impact hospitals' tax exempt status. The AHA recently met with the IRS to ask the agency to confirm that following the new HHS rules would not jeopardize hospitals' tax exempt status. The IRS' initial response was positive. The IRS understands hospitals' role in facilitating electronic health record implementation and is willing to move quickly to provide a formal response about this important issue.
The survey was administered in fall 2006. Almost 1,500 community hospitals-about 30 percent of all community hospitals-responded to the survey. A copy of the survey results is available at /content/2007/pdf/070227-continuedprogress.pdf.
The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the improvement of health in their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which includes more than 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, and 38,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends.
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