HIMSS survey: Meaningful Use still on hospital IT execs' minds

Achieving Meaningful Use continues to be the top IT priority for health IT executives, according to the results of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's most recent leadership survey, announced Tuesday at the organization's annual conference in Las Vegas. Thirty-eight percent of executives called Meaningful Use their most important IT undertaking, down from 49 percent in 2011, but still well ahead of the 15 percent of execs who said that focusing on clinical systems was their top priority.

What's more, one-fourth of respondents indicated that having a fully operational electronic health record in place was their top clinical IT focus. ICD-10 implementation, meanwhile, was the primary IT focus financially, although the survey was conducted from December 2011 to January 2012, well before the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' announcement that ICD-10 would be delayed.

Responding to a question about what the ICD-10 announcement means for hospitals, HIMSS President H. Stephen Lieber emphasized that the delay would only affect "certain healthcare entities." He specifically pointed out that at the time of the initial, unofficial announcement by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on Feb. 14, Tavenner was talking to an American Medical Association group in a "hostile environment." Lieber hinted that smaller providers could make up that group of certain entities.

Twenty-one percent of respondents said that the biggest barrier to IT implementation was a lack of staffing resources, a change from 2011, when most executives indicated that a lack of financial support as the primary barrier.

Other areas of note in the survey included:

  • 49 percent of those surveyed said their organization participated in a health information exchange, while 26 percent indicated they had no plan to participate in one
  • 38 percent said they believe IT could improve quality outcomes, while 22 percent believe IT could help reduce medical errors
  • 34 percent of respondents said HIPAA compliance and CMS security audits are their primary IT concern

Although not mentioned in the survey, a number of executives on the panel responded to the survey, discussing the importance of mobility.

"If you don't have mobility in your strategy, then you don't have a strategy," Susan Heichert, CIO of Minneapolis-based Allina Hospital & Clinics, said.

Todd Richardson, CIO of Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Ind., agreed that a mobile strategy was vital, but he added that it wasn't a great form factor for doing heads down documentation. He referenced a conversation he had recently with FierceMobileHealthcare Editor Sara Jackson regarding whether or not hospitals should create chief mobility officer positions. His take: they shouldn't.

"Mobile's just another technology," Richardson said. "It's clearly there and there's a place for it, but it's only one tool."

To learn more:
- here's the HIMSS announcement on the survey