‘meaningful use’ deadline weighs heavy on hospital CIOs, report says

According to a new survey, eight in ten hospital chief information officers (CIOs) are worried they will not meet the “meaningful use” requirements for electronic health records (EHRs) by 2015. Survey respondents also voiced concern about the massive influx of data that is scheduled to hit a planned national health information network, calling the infrastructure insufficient.

“Healthcare organizations are building high-performance race cars to travel back country roads,” said Daniel Garrett, leader of the health IT practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The survey was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute (HRI) along with 120 CIOs and health IT executives with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

Mr. Garrett continued by saying that many providers are too focused on the short-term requirements for EHRs because of funding rules, hurting the prospects for longer-term goals for meaningful EHR usage. “Government leaders and health organizations need to give consideration to the ultimate goal as they work to finalize and meet guidelines for meaningful use,” he said.

The survey outlined characteristics of those hospitals who indicated they were struggling with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requirements and listed some attributes of other hospitals who are among the early adopters of meaningful use EHR guidelines. Despite recent pushes by the federal government to expand training and fund extension centers some CIOs continue to worry about a shortage of skilled staff. Many CIOs do not believe the labor market for health IT workers or clinicians with IT knowledge is strong enough to move quickly.

Other CIOs said they have experienced a shortfall in the HIE vender market, with over one-third saying they were concerned or very concerned with the health IT sectors overall readiness. Recent merger and acquisition within the industry has signaled stronger competition for rapid deployment of systems and integration support, but the changes have also left CIOs uneasy – especially when it comes to external support for health information exchanges.

One major gap, according to the report, is that most health systems are not incorporating health insurers with their meaningful use strategies. Some six percent of CIOs said they expect to see improved alignment with health insurers over the next two years through meaningful use, and only 24 percent had high hopes for longer-term benefits with insurers.

But the survey also found that some hospitals are progressing quickly to meet ARRA deadlines. Hospitals and health systems furthest ahead in achieving meaningful use displayed a common set of traits, centered around the idea of collaboration and outreach. According to the report, those hospitals that have incorporated physicians, patients and health insurers in the development cycle are much more likely to be ready for meaningful use incentives, scheduled in 2011. This idea also helped hospital CIOs feel more confident about their chances for full reimbursement.

“Success in achieving meaningful use standards hinges on closer integration with key constituents – physicians, health insurers and patients,” said Kelly Barnes, U.S. leader of health industries at PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a statement. “Healthcare organizations have an opportunity to be listening much more closely to what patients are telling them they want and need, and through meaningful use of EHRs, they can deliver care in a more personalized, coordinated way.”

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