"Meaningful Use" to Spur Healthcare IT Spending in 2010


  • "Meaningful use" is poised to be the major driver of healthcare IT spending in 2010, say respondents to the 21st annual HIMSS Leadership Survey. An improving economy is also helping to put spending back on course after a slowdown in 2009.
  • Federal stimulus money has been promised to healthcare organizations that can prove meaningful use of healthcare IT products, prompting 59 percent of survey respondents to note they plan to make additional investments in order to qualify.
  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents expect their IT operating budgets to increase, and two-thirds expect to increase the number of IT staff.
  • Nearly half of respondents now say they have a fully functional EMR in at least one facility. 

CHICAGO - "Meaningful use" - a concept introduced only a year ago - appears to be spurring an increase in healthcare information technology (IT) spending along with a brightening economy, suggests results of the 21st Annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Leadership Survey.

Signed February 17, 2009, the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) promises financial incentives to providers and hospitals for the "meaningful use" of certified healthcare IT products. Although criteria for meaningful use won't be established until later this year, nearly four-fifths (59 percent) of the 398 respondents to this year's survey say they plan to make additional investments to position themselves to qualify for the incentives. 

Driven by meaningful use incentives and a rebounding economy, nearly three quarters (72 percent) of respondents said they expect their IT operating budgets to increase, bringing that response back to the levels of two years ago.  Last year, only 55 percent of respondents expected an increase in their budgets. Nearly half (49 percent) who said their budgets would increase this year reported that meaningful use would be a driver.  Another 45 percent reported the increase would be due to an overall growth in the number of system and technologies at their organization.

Asked to identify their single IT priority during the next two years, 42 percent of respondents identified meeting meaningful use criteria.  Many likely will be doing so by implementing clinical systems: when asked to identify their organization's primary clinical IT focus, 35 percent said it would be ensuring their organization has a fully functional electronic medical record (EMR) in place and 27 percent said it would focus on installing a computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system.

"Many healthcare executives are paying attention to the improving financial picture, evaluating their systems and starting to make investments," said Barry P. Chaiken, M.D., HIMSS board chair. "A year ago, spending was down and hospitals were feeling pressure, but the stabilizing of the economy and the ARRA meaningful use provision has provided an incentive for making healthcare IT investments."

Meaningful use was reflected in other answers throughout the survey.  For instance, more than one-third (38 percent) said government issues were the business issue they felt would have the biggest impact on healthcare in the next two years, whereas last year, only six percent thought that was the case.  This year's response reflects compliance with new regulations regarding meaningful use, as well as coding upgrades and claim processes impacted by ICD-10 (the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases) and the updated version of HIPAA (5010).  Financial considerations (such as demand for capital and finding new revenue resources) was identified as the top business issue last year, chosen by 54 percent of respondents. This year, 23 percent identified it as the top business issue.

Two-thirds (66 percent) expected to increase the number of IT staff, which is consistent with 2008 data, after dipping to less than half a year ago.

Security concerns continue to remain consistent.  One third of respondents (34 percent) said an internal breach of security was their top security concern, and nearly one-quarter (23 percent) said their organization had a security breach in the past year. Thirty percent said their major security concern was compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security regulations and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) security audits. 

Healthcare organizations continue to make progress on EMR adoption. Nearly half (48 percent) said they have a fully operational EMR in at least one facility, compared to 41 percent last year.  Nearly a quarter (22 percent) said they have a fully operation EMR throughout their entire organization, up from 17 percent last year.  Almost a third (32 percent) have begun to install an EMR in at least one facility.

Asked about what area of patient care they felt IT could have the most impact, more than a third (37 percent) said it could improve clinical and quality outcomes. Another quarter (28 percent) felt the biggest impact would be in reducing medical errors and improving patient safety.  The 2009 survey identified the same top two items, with the order reversed. Additionally, nearly all (95 percent) said clinicians play a role in the IT process at their organizations.

Other findings of the 21st Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey include:

  • Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) said lack of adequate financial resources/lack of budget would be the most significant barrier to successful healthcare IT implementation at their organization.
  • Nearly half (43 percent) of respondents said their organization participates in a Health Information Exchange (HIE): 37 percent in their area and seven percent in the state-mandated HIE.
  • The level of integration between IT and overall organizational strategies encouragingly remains strong, with 87 percent answering affirmatively this year, compared to 84 percent last year. Nearly half (47 percent) said the IT plan is a component of the organization's overall strategic plan, an increase from 2009, when 38 percent said that was the case.

The self-administered Web-based Leadership Survey was completed by 398 participants between Dec. 14, 2009 and January 29, 2010.  Those surveyed represent nearly 270 unique healthcare organizations and nearly 700 hospitals throughout the United States. The average bed size of the hospitals was 235 and the median bed size is 128.  Eighty five percent of respondents said they are senior IT executives at their organizations, and 66 percent are corporate chief information officers (CIOs). 


The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is a comprehensive healthcare-stakeholder membership organization exclusively focused on providing global leadership for the optimal use of information technology (IT) and management systems for the betterment of healthcare. Founded in 1961 with offices in Chicago, Washington D.C., Brussels, Singapore, and other locations across the United States, HIMSS represents more than 23,000 individual members, of which 73% work in patient care delivery settings. HIMSS also includes over 380 corporate members and nearly 30 not-for-profit organizations that share our mission of transforming healthcare through the effective use of information technology and management systems. HIMSS frames and leads healthcare public policy and industry practices through its educational, professional development, and advocacy initiatives designed to promote information and management systems' contributions to ensuring quality patient care.  Visit www.himss.org for more information.