Promoting patient safety top IT concern: study

Promoting patient safety while reducing medical errors continues to be the top reason for implementing information technology while a lack of financial and staffing resources continues to be the most significant barrier to implementation, according to the 18th annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society leadership survey released today.
Among the 360 healthcare IT leaders surveyed, 54% said reducing errors and promoting safety was their top IT priority in 2007, which is up from 50% in 2006. Next on the list was replacing or upgrading inpatient clinical systems at 48%, up from 29% last year. Added to the list of priorities this year was “business continuity and disaster recovery,” which was named by 35% of the respondents as a priority.
The lack of adequate financial support was named the top barrier to IT implementation for the seventh-straight year. This was named by 20% of the respondents, compared with 18% in 2006. This was followed by lack of staffing, at 16% compared with 17% last year; and “vendors’ inability to effectively deliver a product or service to satisfaction,” at 15% up from 12% last year.
Barely on the radar screen were two areas the federal government has been focused on: a lack of common data standards, named by only 2% of respondents as a significant barrier; and “laws prohibiting data sharing (such as Stark),” which was named as a significant barrier by less than 1% of the respondents. HIMSS President and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Lieber said during a news conference that the members of his organization had encouraged the federal government to reform Stark and maybe it was just too early to measure the effect of these efforts or that organizations haven’t “aggressively” taken advantage of new opportunities that are now available.
“It’s not necessarily a wrong place for government to focus,” Lieber said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the impact yet.”
Privacy and security concerns are definitely on the public’s mind these days, and, among those surveyed, 18% reported experiencing a security breach within the past six months. Also, internal breaches of security were named as the top data security concern by 57% of the respondents. In response to security concerns, 70% projected they were most likely to implement disaster-recovery technologies; 69% would use firewalls; 68%, user access controls; and 64% mentioned both the use of audit logs and single sign-ons as possible security measures.
HIMSS Board Chairman George Hickman noted “it’s clear that providers will be adopting multiple measures.”

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