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Two-Year Planner

September 1, 2006
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Healthcare users share upcoming plans and projects, as well as their take on the changing industry.

Although electronic health records (EHRs) and related-technologies are clearly on the agendas for healthcare provider and payer organizations, they are not the only focus, according to the results of a Healthcare Informatics needs-assessment survey conducted in July. For the upcoming 12 months, one quarter of the respondents named EHRs as their number one project. Another 20 percent plan to focus on EHR-related projects.

Financial support for EHR-related projects appears to be gaining a solid foothold in organizational budgets as more than half of those completing the survey say such initiatives have investment priority for the next two years. At least one-third of those taking the survey expect to be actively involved in clinical automation implementations in the up-coming year with approximately one quarter planning to defer prioritization for another year.

Although it is difficult to summarize line item budgets for such projects due to variances in size and types of organizations, the mean for those reporting funds earmarked for EHRs in the upcoming year exceeds $750,000 per organization.

A comparison of healthcare IT investment priorities for the next 12 months versus the following 13 to 24 months shows only a slight variation in the distribution of IT projects across four main technology groups. The groups were formed to gain a high-level view of what upper-level managers — representing a cross-section of healthcare provider and payer organizations — are thinking and how they plan to allocate budgets.

Among other key technologies, nearly one third of those surveyed named bar coding and/or RFID initiatives among the top 10 technologies they planned for the upcoming year. Some did not name a specific technology, but cited patient safety as a significant driver for them in planning for technology implementations over the next two years.

Shifting baselines

The steady transition from care delivery in acute care facilities to the ambulatory care environment is causing a major change in corporate decision-making and investment strategies, say panelists.

A recurring theme is the increased focus on EHRs, including the early-stage deliberations and planning around IT adoption in physician practices. And they report more money dedicated to IT investments, as well as on improvements and construction for outpatient treatment centers. In addition, a number perceive preferential treatment for technology implementations, including EHRs, going to outpatient clinics and services.

Data on how pay-for-performance programs are affecting investments in IT shows a deeply divided environment. About half say there has been no effect on their business. But a nearly equal number had much to say about how P4P is affecting them. Although some say they's still in the process of formulating a strategy, most report increased interest in using technology to help their organizations collect the data necessary to deal with P4P programs.

Author Information:

Charlene Marietti

Mark Hagland is a contributing writer based in Chicago.