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Meaningful Use, ACOs Raise Health IT Integration Needs

“As hospitals realize the benefits to population health, meaningful use gains and accountable care, they are steadily making investments to improve their workflows and IT infrastructure for greater access to information.”

By Sara Heath

Federal initiatives such as meaningful use and accountable care organizations (ACOs) are shaping healthcare professionals’ needs when it comes to health IT use. According to a recent study by IDC InfoBrief, healthcare organizations have a lot of room for health IT improvements, and many of those are being driven by needs for connectivity.

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The study surveyed nearly 100 high-ranking health IT executives and another 500 or more hospital employees in order to determine health IT and information mobility patterns. By looking at how some organizations use health IT for connectivity, IDC was also able to glean insights about business benefits from health IT.

In a world where hospitals and healthcare providers are facing considerable challenges such as meaningful use, staff shortages, government regulations, and population health management hurdles, IDC found that healthcare professionals are utilizing information mobility to alleviate these pressures and drive meaningful use and ACOs.

“The healthcare industry has historically invested less in technology than other industries, but government regulations incentivizing technology upgrades have spurred the next wave in information mobility for healthcare,” said IDC’s Research Vice President of Connected Health IT Strategies Lynne Dunbrack in a statement.

According to Dunbrack, government incentives are a considerable driver for health IT innovation, and will be going forward.

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“The need to access the right data at a moment's notice is even more critical in the healthcare industry when patient care is at stake,” she said. “As hospitals realize the benefits to population health, meaningful use gains and accountable care, they are steadily making investments to improve their workflows and IT infrastructure for greater access to information.”

For example, the survey found that nearly 80 percent of respondents need information mobility and remote access to relevant information to utilize core functionality and information repositories.

Additionally, 77 percent of respondents need information mobility for integrating relevant information into various platforms to determine important care insights. Meaningful use and accountable care are likely the biggest influence for these needs as they both incentivize coordinated care through shared information across the care continuum.

Furthermore, nearly 60 percent of respondents stated that extracting data for medical records is critical to an organization’s business plan. Likewise, about half of respondents stated that drawing information from paper files and shared images are critical for a business plan.

The survey indicates that these actions allow physicians to deliver high quality, accountable care. Several respondents indicated that this directly affects patient satisfaction, thus affecting business plans. In fact, nearly 66 percent of respondents believe information mobility has a positive effect on revenue, while 58 percent believe it has a positive effect on profitability.

Specifically, respondents indicated that information mobility has a positive effect on physician work quality, information flow within departments, and increased time for employees to increase patient satisfaction, all with approximately 30 percent of respondents answering as such.

That said, this study shows considerable insights into where the health IT and information mobility industries may fall short. For example, IDC and Ricoh asked participants how mature their organization was in information mobility. This was measured in four categories, including candidates, beginners, contenders, and champions, with each one getting more mature in that order.

Out of the over 600 respondents, only nine percent identified as champions, while approximately 30 percent identified as candidates, beginners, and contenders. This shows that very few healthcare organizations are advanced in their health IT adoption, and that there is plenty of room for positive growth.

Additionally, the study suggests that very few hospitals are efficiently using health IT and information mobility to integrate workflows across various specialties or departments. Nearly 30 percent of respondents report integration done to either a minor extent or ineffectively, while 50 percent claim they have started integration but only to a moderate extent. Only 17 percent claim to have effectively integrated healthcare data.

Overall, healthcare organizations are reporting a notable amount of unmet needs with data integration and information mobility. According to the survey, a total of about 85 percent of respondents state they have unmet needs for optimization document workflows, showing a gap for improvement in information mobility work.

Executives from Ricoh Americas Corporation, the entity which commissioned this study, state that information such as that which was gathered in this study is integral in implementing changes to health IT and information mobility.

"We understand how improvements to workflow efficiency and information mobility can benefit hospitals, their staff and the patients they serve, and we are working with healthcare organizations to implement technologies that will help improve overall population health,” said Ricoh’s Vice President of Healthcare Ron Nielson.

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