Report: Health Care Leaders See Benefits, Drawbacks in Health IT

Healthcare physician leaders and executives mostly support the national initiative to implement electronic health systems, and say they will improve efficiency and quality. But they're also uneasy about the cost, value, and functionality of their own systems, a new HealthLeaders Media Intelligence analysis has found.

A survey of 242 healthcare leaders from hospitals, physician groups, and health plans, detailed in the latest HealthLeaders Media Intelligence Report, E-Health Systems: Opportunities and Obstacles, found that more than 80% of healthcare leaders say the government's push for electronic health systems will improve quality of care industry-wide, and 89% say it will improve quality and safety at their own organizations.

That confidence cools considerably when it comes to the capabilities of their systems. Only about half of hospital and health system leaders are either very satisfied (13%) or somewhat satisfied (41%) with the overall functionalities of their systems. Among physician leaders, the numbers are similar: 16% are strongly satisfied and 44% are somewhat satisfied.

Among the report's other findings:

  • 71% of hospital and physician leaders agree that e-health systems will increase efficiency at their own organization—67% said healthcare will become more efficient nationwide
  • 54% of hospital and 60% of physician leaders are satisfied with overall functionality of their systems
  • 46% of respondents cited lack of financing or resources as the greatest challenge of implementing e-health systems—and about a quarter are still struggling to overcome physician resistance

"We installed our clinic EMR five years ago. It is a continuous work in progress," says John R. Gardner, CEO of Yuma (CO) Hospital District and Clinics. "From the administration's point of view, we are now at a 'somewhat satisfied' point." Among the medical staff, however, opinions range from 'it's horrible' to 'it's wonderful.'"

Jim Cramer, vice president and CIO of the three-hospital Scottsdale (AZ) Healthcare, and the lead advisor for the Intelligence Report, says some of the ambivalence comes from the anxiety of using unproven software to operate the highly complex systems under real-world situations.

"The belief is that with more usage all the products and the solutions in the hospitals, as well as the solutions within physician office settings, will continue to evolve based on more and more clinician input," Cramer says. "In some respects there's no perfect solution. It's what the organization does with the solution that they select to make it work for them. The leading solutions that are out there will all continue to evolve; as more and more requirements relative to interoperability evolve, the robustness of the products will evolve, as well."

Click on Physicians Optimistic to download the full report.