Meaningful Use Programs Spiking HIT Spending

About three-quarters of health IT executives plan to boost IT spending over the next two years, report shows.
While the federal government hasn't yet hammered out all the criteria of its "meaningful use" health IT stimulus programs, the upcoming requirements already appear to be inciting an increase in IT spending among healthcare providers, according to a study released Monday.

Findings of the annual survey, conducted by the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS ) was revealed at the organization's conference in Atlanta Monday.

Seventy-two percent of respondents expect their IT operating budgets to increase over the next two years, according to the Web-based survey of nearly 400 healthcare CIOs and other senior IT executives.

While the survey revealed that the government's healthcare IT stimulus package is in the form of meaningful use programs are the main drivers behind the increased IT spending plans, the slowly improving economy is the number-two influence, according to the survey.

The nearly three-quarters of healthcare IT executives predicting a rise in IT spending over the next two years is back to the approximate percentage of respondents who said two years ago -- before the economy hit bottom -- that they planned to increase IT spending.

The percentage of HIMSS survey respondents who last year expected to increase IT spending was only 55%, however.

In addition to boosting IT spending, two-thirds of respondents also expect to grow their IT staffs. That figure is also back to 2008 levels after dipping last year, said HIMSS.

Meanwhile, another study released at HIMSS found that about 60% of U.S. doctors who don't currently use e-medical records plan on purchasing the technology within the next two years.

For that research report, approximately 1,000 physicians in practices with fewer than 10 doctors were recently polled by Harris Interactive on behalf of Accenture.

Among the survey's most surprising findings was that approximately 75% of doctors over the age of 55 who haven't yet implemented EMRs said they plan to do so, said Greg Parston, director of Accenture institute for health and public service value in an interview with InformationWeek.

The majority of those doctors said they planned to implement an EMR system within two years despite their decades-long reliance on paper-based work processes and possible nearing retirements.

"This is a big outlay late in their careers," Parston said, considering the return on investment being lesser since those doctors likely will be practicing fewer years.

Those older doctor not planning to implement EMRs in two years are likely holding out because of plans to retire sooner rather than later or only practice part-time, or perhaps are considering a move to another practice that has these systems installed or on the drawing board.

Nonetheless, as other doctors in these over-age-50 physician's circles deploy EMR, competitive pressure will also push these older doctors to implement the systems. Also, another soon-to-be-released survey by Accenture also found that 75% of Americans want their doctors to have e- medical records.

And of course there are also the financial penalties by the federal government that will kick in starting in 2015 for doctors that don't meet meaningful use criteria.

"That's pressure as well," Partson said.

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