HIMSS 2017: Providers set their sights on quality, EHRs amid workforce challenges

Doctor with computer and gadgets
EHRs are one of the most pressing concerns for hospitals in the coming year, according to a new survey.

ORLANDO, Fla.—Quality care, EHRs and cybersecurity are the top three IT issues facing healthcare providers, according to a new survey, and the majority of hospitals indicate they have positions to fill in their IT department.

The results of the survey conducted by HIMSS were announced at the organization’s annual conference on Monday, which included responses from 210 provider organizations and 158 vendor/consulting organizations.

Although the two groups generally saw eye to eye on several of the most pressing IT priorities facing the industry—such as quality and cybersecurity—there was some notable disconnect regarding EHRs and risk management. Both issues ranked in the top five for providers, but barely cracked the top 10 for vendors and consultants. The disconnect was even wider between vendors and ambulatory care clinics, and vendors and long-term care providers. 

HIMSS executives described the disconnect as a “healthy tension” within the health IT marketplace.

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The survey also highlighted persistent IT workforce gaps for providers. More than half of hospitals increased their IT workforce over the past year, and just 29% indicated their IT department was fully staffed. Providers—as well as vendors—said recruiting and retaining qualified IT staff is a challenge, so much so that 30% of providers were forced to scale back an IT project in the previous year.

In some cases, this lack of IT talent leads to outsourcing, particularly for IT support staff. Last month, health IT leaders voiced concern that President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven countries would have a detrimental impact on the health IT workforce.

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“Health IT continues to be a bright spot in the U.S. economy,” Lorren Pettit, vice president of health information systems and research for HIMSS, said in an announcement. “Health IT workers continue to see strong demand for their skills, as employers across the provider and vendor/consultant spectrum embrace various health IT strategic initiatives. But the specific hurdles faced by some sectors suggest that the health IT field will need to creatively address its expansion outside the hospital walls.” 

Notably, 56% of providers said their IT budget will increase in the next fiscal year compared to 87% of vendors/consultants. The results fell in line with those of a survey published in November that showed 52% of healthcare CIOs expected their budgets to increase.