Survey: Slow Adoption Of IT A Threat To Health Industry

In a survey of health-care executives, 38% think the slow adoption of IT--such as electronic health records--is a top threat to the industry. Almost as many, 37%, think rising health costs are the most threatening.
Slow adoption of IT, followed closely by rising medical costs and the cost of technology itself, are among the most serious threats to the health-care industry, according to a new survey of senior executives released Wednesday.

The survey found that 38% think the slow adoption of IT--such as electronic health records--is among the most serious threats to the industry, followed by rising health costs, which was picked by 37% of the respondents. The increasing number of people without health insurance or with under-insurance was picked by 34% as among the biggest threats. Respondents were asked to pick the two most serious threats to their sector of the industry from a list of more than two-dozen possible threats.

The majority of the survey's 122 respondents were so-called "C-level" senior executives, of which 44% work for hospitals, health insurers, or physician practices. All are registered attendees of the World Health Care Congress, a health-care industry summit, taking place next week in Washington, D.C. The online study was conducted by Harris Interactive for IT services firm Capgemini last month.

Of the other choices, the cost of technology came in fourth place as being one of the biggest threats. That was chosen by 30% of the respondents. "The largest challenge for many is financial," says Lewis Redd, president of Capgemini's health practice.

Clinical IT systems, such as electronic health records and E-prescribing, and bedside decision-support tools, can potentially save the nation billions of dollars annually by reducing medical errors and costly processes, such as duplicated medical testing, according to some government researchers. However, many cash-strapped health providers have found it difficult to fund such technology projects.

Still, the Capgemini survey found that 68% of executives who work for hospitals, health insurers, or physician practices says their companies have increased or accelerated their investments in clinical IT, including digital health records.

Meanwhile, only a third say they're collaborating with other local health companies on these projects, which in turn could hinder President Bush's goal of having a national network of interoperable health records within the next 10 years. "You could say many of these companies are working in silos," Redd says.

Return to the Health-Care Leaders HomepageWhile there are pockets of regional collaborative efforts to wire health-care providers and payers, many of those developments are in communities where one or two health insurers cover a majority of citizens and the companies are willing to pick up a big portion of the tab to get the digitized work rolling, says Redd.

For instance, such is the case in Massachusetts, where Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is providing $50 million to a pilot project for three communities in the state to begin deploying this year interoperable electronic health-records systems. The goal is for this pilot to serve as model for getting the rest of the state's health-care providers wired within five years.