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Question hangs over HIMSS Leadership Survey

February 25, 2008
by aguerra
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Mid-morning Monday at the HIMSS Conference: Results of HIMSS Leadership Survey prompt questions from press

By Mark Hagland

Is the august HIMSS Leadership Survey, one of the premier survey tools in the healthcare IT field, slightly less reliable than what the industry requires? That question emerged at the HIMSS media briefing this morning at HIMSS 2008, the annual conference of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, this year being held in Orlando, Feb. 24-28, at the OrlandoConvention Center.

The good news for the HIMSS organization is that attendance, tallied in at 26,306 as of this morning, is expected by HIMSS management to reach 27,500, based on past years’ attendance patterns. That would represent a 6 percent increase over last year’s numbers. At the same time, the number of vendors is up 20% from last year as well, with 905 IT vendors exhibiting this year. Meanwhile, fully 1,600 CIOs are already in attendance in Orlando.

But questions around survey methodology came to the fore as HIMSS president Stephen Lieber and several other panelists presented the results of the 19th Annual (2008) HIMSS Leadership Survey to assembled press, both trade and consumer, at the media briefing this morning. On the one hand, overall results tracked consistently with those of past years, with minor exceptions. But HIMSS leaders admitted that changes in survey methodology over last year made apples-to-apples comparisons between 2007 and 2008 results problematic.

For instance, concern improving quality of care, cited by survey respondents both this year and last year as the top business issue facing health care, appeared to drop from 69% to 56%, because of changes in the methodology of how questions were presented to survey participants. Similarly, the next two issues of concern, Medicare cutbacks and patient/customer satisfaction, though retaining top place among business issues, fell from 52% to 43%, and from 55% to 36%, respectively. As a result, issues that clearly remain at the top of the agenda for CIOs and executive teams in hospitals and health systems across the U.S., appear in the survey to have wobbled a bit. Assembled members of the media asked Lieber and the other HIMSS leaders presenting what these apparent changes in results meant, and received somewhat equivocal responses.

Otherwise, the Leadership Survey confirmed the broad outlines of IT implementation progress, including an ongoing focus in the past few years on core and advanced clinical information systems. The most important applications in the next year, survey respondents said, were clinical information systems (45%, versus 46% last year), computerized physician/practitioner order entry (CPOE; 42% versus 47% last year), and the electronic medical record (EMR; 31%, versus 47% last year).

And in terms of EMR implementation, the survey noted progress among respondents’ organizations, with 44% reporting that their organization had a fully implemented EMR, compared to 32% last year and 24% in 2006. Meanwhile, 27% said installation had begun, versus 37% last year and 36% in 2006. Four percent had signed a contract this year versus 6% last year and 4 percent in 2006. Even with regard to those figures, however, HIMSS leaders noted a change in methodology with regard to how respondents were asked to respond, with regard to multi-hospital systems.

But the ongoing progress towards fully implemented EMRs was confirmed, and at least in that regard, HIMSS Leadership Survey results, extrapolated from a survey base of 300 executives, did validate the growing consensus of the industry, that progress towards implementing key core clinical information systems must continue forward and indeed accelerate. Stay tuned to more updates from this blog in the coming two days.

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