Economy Forces Most Wired Hospitals to Look Closely at IT Spending
The economic crisis is forcing many hospitals to make tough decisions with scarce resources, including delaying and scaling down information technology (IT) projects, according to a newly released survey of America's "most wired" hospitals and health systems. While progress has been made and incentives to implement IT will be available through the recently passed stimulus legislation, many hospitals still have a long way to go.
The 100 Most Wired hospitals are torn between building on their IT successes and keeping a sharp eye on budgets. Marking its 11th year, the Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study continues to lead the field in analyses and benchmarking of healthcare IT.
"The economic slowdown is forcing hospitals to look closely at IT spending," says Alden Solovy, executive editor of Hospitals & Health Networks magazine. "Most Wired hospitals are doing their best to stay the course."
To complicate matters, the great unknown of health care reform looms in the near future and a number of regulatory changes are already heading down the pike, including the shift to ICD-10.
"As the health reform debate continues, it's clear that IT will play an even more important role in the health system of tomorrow," says Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association (AHA). "Most Wired hospitals help illustrate IT in action-improving efficiency, quality and safety of care while helping to control costs."
Although hospitals appear to be cutting the total dollars they spend on information technology, IT spending as a percent of total capital and operating budgets is actually increasing.
"Hospitals clearly recognize that in spite of smaller budgets they still need to invest in IT and position themselves for the future," says Sunny Sanyal, president of McKesson Provider Technologies. "We're seeing hospitals reprioritize. For example, instead of continuing with plans to build a new data center extension, a hospital now may choose to redirect funds to other technologies."
Hospitals also continue to invest in IT that supports quality and safety initiatives. Investment in electronic medication management is considered one of the fundamentals of using IT to improve care. The 2009 Most Wired Survey and Benchmarking Study shows an overall increase in both provider order entry of medications and electronic bedside matching at the time medications are administered.
Of the organizations completing the survey this year, 38 hospitals and health systems—6.8 percent of the sample—have effectively deployed information technology at both ends of the medication administration process. This compares with 23 hospitals and health systems in 2008, or 4.1 percent of the sample.
At the typical hospital responding to the survey, 26 percent of medications are entered electronically by physicians, compared with 19 percent in 2008. The typical respondent has 40 percent of medications matched at the bedside, compared with 30 percent in 2008.
The Most Wired Survey is conducted annually by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, the journal of the AHA, which uses the results to name the 100 Most Wired hospitals and health systems. It focuses on how the nation's hospitals use information technologies for quality, customer service, public health and safety, business processes and workforce issues.
Hospitals & Health Networks conducted the 2009 survey in cooperation with McKesson Corp. and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. The July H&HN cover story detailing results is available at www.hhnmag.com.
About the AHA
The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 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. For more information, visit the AHA website at www.aha.org.
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