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Survey Shows Differing Views on EHR, Clinical IT Priorities

A recent HIMSS survey highlights a disconnect between health IT vendors and providers about prioritizing improvements to EHR technology and clinical IT in the coming years.

EHR Priorities

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- Despite progress in the maturation of EHR technology over preceding years, EHR vendors and provider users differ as to improving clinical IT in the years ahead.

That is one finding from the 2017 HIMSS Leadership and Workforce Survey released earlier this week. According to the authors of the survey, health IT has had an overall positive effect on the health industry and the US economy as a whole. 

EHR adoption continues to grow as hospitals implement the technology to streamline coordinated care and equip their staff with the necessary tools to keep up with an ever-developing industry, EHR technology still falls short of its potential value in providers in delivering high-quality care efficiently.

The HIMSS survey confirmed investments in health IT and EHR technology will continue to rise this year, with the majority of providers (56 percent) and vendors/consultants (87 percent) expecting an increase in health IT budgets. 

This projection falls in line with a similar conjecture made in a recent KPMG survey of College of Healthcare Information Management members (CHIME) which showed more than one-third of CIOs (38 percent) predict EHR optimization will be a major area of capital investment for them over the next three years. Thirty-six percent agreed they see their health IT budgets increasing over the next two years, as well. 

Predictions like these make sense within the context of the booming health IT industry and its positive effect on the economy, especially given existing and forthcoming incentives for providers to utilize EHR technology to its fullest potential. 

“Meaningful Use, HITECH and new payment models have encouraged healthcare providers to invest in EHRs, but some didn’t mesh with how doctors and nurses work,” said KPMG Advisory Managing Director Ralph Fargnoli. “A majority of doctors are dissatisfied with EHRs. We need to make these systems secure, easier to use, and interoperable across the continuum of care to effectively treat patients and uncover where quality and efficiency can be improved.”

Among a list of top clinical IT priorities, provider respondents listed EHRs as a high priority behind the likes of privacy, security, and cybersecurity; quality and patient safety; and care coordination, culture of care, and population.

While agreeing on the importance of three out of those four, health IT vendors and providers disagreed as to the priority of EHR technology with this falling several notches on the to-do lists of the former. 

According to the HIMSS survey, vendors appear to be "moving on" to other endeavors while providers are still grappling with how to utilize existing EHR technology and investments. That being, said, ambulatory providers were distinct from hospitals and long-term post-acute care centers in ranking EHRs lower on a list of highest clinical IT priorities.

This inability to align priorities in health IT development could prove problematic as health organizations continue to push for newer, more efficient models of EHR technology to facilitate the transition to value-based care and true EHR interoperability.

Despite their developing interest in other projects, health IT vendors are paying some attention to the priorities and needs of larger hospitals. Providers working outside of the hospital setting, however, report vendor priorities often failing to align with their own. 

While occasional discrepancies in health IT development and investment priorities exist, stakeholder groups maintain consistency in their assertion that privacy and security, care coordination, culture of care, and population health will remain priorities in 2017. 

Keeping stakeholders aligned with the interests of providers is imperative in securing the resources necessary to bolster health IT in the areas providers deem to be most lacking. 

With so much focus on increased spending in health technology this year, vendors and providers will need to align their interests a bit more closely in order to push EHR technology closer to its imagined potential.

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