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Patient Satisfaction and Patient Engagement Race to the Top of CIOs’ Agendas: HIMSS Leadership Survey

April 13, 2015
by Mark Hagland
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At HIMSS15, which is enjoying record attendance this year at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, dramatic new results from the HIMSS Leadership Survey are reflecting policy and industry focus on patient concerns in healthcare

Patient satisfaction, patient engagement, and quality of care improvement have raced to the top of healthcare CIOs’ and senior IT executives’ agendas in the past year, according to the industry’s leading executive survey. Those were among the findings of the 26th Annual HIMSS Leadership Survey, sponsored by the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and released at a press briefing held Monday morning, April 13, at the vast McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago.

At that same press briefing, HIMSS senior leaders announced that attendance at the HIMSS Conference this year had reached an all-time high, at 41,044, versus the 35,509 at HIMSS14 in Orlando, or an increase of 15.5 percent, based on Sunday evening registration numbers. What’s more, 1,326 vendors are exhibiting this year, versus 1,211 last year. And the entirety of the space that the annual conference is taking up, HIMSS senior executives announced, was more than 541,000 net square feet at McCormick Place. The gross square footage of the conference, or 1.3 million square feet, said Carla Smith, executive vice president-HIMSS North America, is actually larger this year than the Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest building, is tall.

With regard to the HIMSS Leadership Survey, most dramatically, respondents ranked “improve patient satisfaction” and “improve patient care/quality of care” as their top business objectives, both at 87 percent, and above “sustain financial viability,” at 85 percent; “improve care coordination,” at 76 percent; “improve operational efficiency,” at 72 percent; “improve physician satisfaction,” at 68 percent; “achieve meaningful use,” at 68 percent; and “increase market share,” at 66 percent. Jennifer Horowitz, HIMSS’ senior director of research, in response to a question from Healthcare Informatics regarding the unprecedented nature of this survey result, noted that the methodology of the survey has changed in this year’s survey, compared to last year’s.

This year, Horowitz noted, survey respondents were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 (7 being the highest), various items on a list; whereas last year, respondents were asked to rank items. Still, the contrast with the results of the 2014 survey is noteworthy, despite the methodological difference in question-asking. Respondents to the 2014 survey ranked the following as their top business objectives: “sustaining financial viability” (25 percent); “improving operational efficiency” (16 percent) “improving the quality of care” (14 percent); “achieving meaningful use” (14 percent); and “increasing market share”(10 percent).

Among a panel of four senior healthcare IT leaders, Paul Kleeberg, M.D., CMIO of the Bloomington, Minn.-based Stratis Health and clinical director for the Regional Extension Assistance Center for HIT (REACH), a REC serving Minnesota and North Dakota, commented that “I think what’s really driving that [survey result] is the Stage 2 requirements to get patients engaged and achieve 5 percent patient engagement according to that meaningful use measure, which I think is a good thing. It’s raising awareness,” he added.

William W. Feaster, M.D., CMIO at CHOC Children’s Hospital, Orange, Calif., added, with regard to the connection between patient engagement and population health, that his organization is involved in a concerted push around both. “Our focus right now is really what this survey is saying,” he said, adding that there are four keys to achieving success in those broad areas. “The first is how you communicate data about care. The second one that we’re really starting to engage in, more than just standing up a portal, is patient engagement. We’re not going to improve the health of populations unless we can engage patients. It’s a bit easier as a children’s hospital, because what parent isn’t engaged in the health of their child?” The third and fourth keys involve organizing data and information about patients via such mechanisms as patient registries; and engaging in concerted care management.

This year, for the first time, survey respondents were asked the degree to which they could credit the ability of IT with helping them to achieve success in a variety of areas. Seventy-four percent of responded said IT was helping their organizations achieve success in care coordination; 73 percent said it was helping them with mandated quality metrics improvement; 69 percent said it was helping them to achieve primary care provider efficiency; and 58 percent said it was helping them to be successful with patient experience management.

When asked what IT strategies they were pursuing for engaging patients, 87 percent reported that they were providing a patient portal to their patients; 82 percent were using an organizational website; and 57 percent were leveraging social media.

With regard to staffing and budgets, 49 percent of respondents said their staffs were growing; 35 percent said their staffs were neither growing nor shrinking; and 11 percent said their staffs were shrinking. Meanwhile, 62 percent reported that their IT operating budgets were increasing; 21 percent were seeing no change; and 11 percent had budgets that were decreasing.

In addition to the broad survey findings, HIMSS’ Smith noted that more than 50 percent of U.S. hospitals are now in Stages 5, 6, or 7 according to the HIMSS Analytics EMRAM schematic.