'Most Wired' hospitals consider meaningful use a roadmap, not a destination

The Department of Health and Human Services was a couple of weeks late with the final rule for meaningful use of health IT, based on a self-imposed deadline, but that delay was fortuitous for Hospitals & Health Networks, which published its annual list of "Most Wired" hospitals and healthcare networks the same week the rule actually came out, with meaningful use front of mind for so many in the industry.

Alas, the annual survey revealed that, at least for the "Most Wired," meaningful use is not a destination, but a roadmap to a future state of technology-enabled quality care.

"For us, meaningful use is a scorecard for where we've been heading for some time," Russ Branzell, vice president and CIO of Poudre Valley Medical Center in Fort Collins, Colo., tells the magazine. "We already had plans to roll out CPOE early next year; it just so happens to coincide with meaningful use. I don't think that is the case for a significant portion of hospitals out there. For some, [HIT adoption] is a necessary evil to get a physician integration strategy; for many it has been a back-burner issue, especially with the economic challenges we've been facing."

And for those organizations that haven't put IT at the forefront of their strategic plans, blame the CIO, Branzell says. "For a lot of organizations, it was approached as an infrastructure build," not a quality-improvement project, Branzell says.

What else sets the Most Wired apart from the rest? At Most Wired hospitals, physicians and other authorized professionals enter 57 percent of medication orders electronically, as compared to 49 percent last year. Electronic bedside medication verification is in place at 55 percent of Most Wired organizations, up from 49 percent in 2009 and 23 percent in 2005. "If you don't have [electronic ordering] as part of a closed-loop system, you don't have it as a safety component," Linda Reed, vice president and CIO of Atlantic Health in Morristown, N.J., says.

Hospitals on the honored list also are leaders in terms of engaging clinicians early in the process of designing IT systems. Anne Arundel Health System in Annapolis, Md., changed its bylaws to require any physician with staff privileges to demonstrate that they can use the CPOE system. Dr. Patricia Czapp, chair of clinical integration at the hospital, recalls seeking the support of other physicians. "How will you feel if half of your partners aren't trained and can't take care of patients in the hospital and it falls on you?'" she asked her colleagues. "We voted for it immediately."

For more on the Most Wired hospitals:
- check out this Hospitals & Health Networks feature

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