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Study: Most Health Organizations Are Implementing HIEs

Posted on April 23, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A study by revenue cycle management vendor Emdeon has concluded that most hospitals and medical practices are getting involved with HIEs, and that a majority of providers were implementing automated medication reconciliation, e-prescribing and EMRs.

To conduct the study, researchers spoke with 147 people from hospitals, large practices and small practices about their HIT practices, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

Eighty-eight percent of hospitals surveyed had fully implemented or were in the process of implementing health information exchange, Emdeon found.  Large practices were even more involved, with 94 percent of those surveyed having fully implemented or begun the process of implementing HIEs.  Even smaller practices were largely on board, despite their resource constraints, with 72 percent having fully or partially implemented HIE connectivity.

As for the other health IT initiatives studied, here’s a quick overview of what Emdeon found (stats courtesy of Becker’s):

Hospitals

* 77 percent have implemented or are on the way to implementing automated medication reconciliation
* 85 percent have partially or completely implemented EMRs
* 61 percent have partially or completely rolled out e-prescribing

Large Medical Practices

* 57 percent are implementing or have completed rollout of automated medication reconciliation
* 74 percent have partly or completely implemented EMRs
* 82 percent have partly or fully implemented e-prescribing

Small Medical Practices

* 55 percent have partly or fully implemented automated medication reconciliation
* 62 percent have partly or completely rolled out EMRs
* 62 percent have partly or fully rolled out e-prescribing

Hospitals Plan HIE Spending Binge, But Are They Prepared?

Posted on September 17, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Here’s some stats that wowed me, and may surprise you too. It looks like hospitals, under pressure to move towards meeting Meaningful Use Stage 2 expectations, are finally barreling into investments in HIE technology.

According to a new study by CapSite, 71 percent of hospitals  surveyed plan to purchase new HIE technology, and 50 percent have joined a private, state or regional HIE. The CapSite 2012 U.S. Health Information Exchange Study, which surveyed about 370 hospitals on their plans, noted that these stats show an uptick from 2011, where they found that one-third of hospitals had joined an HIE.

Why do these stats seem remarkable to me?  Well, for one thing, they’re spending a lot of money to do something nobody seems to know how to do well. To quote a previous story for this blog:

The question is, and has been for many years, whether those investments offer any financial or clinical payback. After all, you can only lay out that kind of money for so long before there’s no business case for the exchange.

Unfortunately, it looks  like the answer may still be “no” in many cases, according to the authors of a study appearing in Perspectives in Health Information Management. Of the 96 HIEs that responded to the researchers’ survey, the “vast majority” didn’t have a business model in place that would sustain itself even into the near future.

It’s not that there aren’t roadmaps for hospital HIE builders to consider. Earlier this year, for example, the National eHealth Collaborative and IDC Health Insights released reports offering best practices HIE builders should consider.

But if you look closely at these recommendations, as well as others made by analysts and policy makers, it appears the HIEs are going to have to get past lots of political obstacles. The NeHC’s step one, “reaching a consensus with regard to objectives and vision for the exchange” could be a real trial in and of itself.  Getting to the point where hospitals share governance effectively with other bodies, deal with competitive issues and handle interoperability — well, I’m not going to hold my breath.

So, while HIE fans (and vendors, natch) are likely to be cheered by this report, I’m calling this out as a potential disaster. Hospitals, are you really ready to spend HIE money wisely?

Hospital Health IT Use Climbs, But Will Health IT Worker Supply Keep Up?

Posted on February 20, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

This week,  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the number of hospitals using IT doubled over the last 24 months. Not coincidentally, she noted that HHS has handed out a truckload of incentive payments in recent times. More than 41,000 doctors and about 2,000 hospitals have gotten $3.1 billion in incentives.

As one might imagine, hospitals and practices are hiring on new professionals to manage all of this IT, ranging from EMR specialists to developers to “data exchange professionals” working on HIE-type projects. And looked at one way — from the federal government’s perspective, say — it’s great to hear that HIT investment is generating jobs.

The thing is, the health IT worker shortage everyone’s screaming about hasn’t gone away.  According to a recent brief from the eHealth Initiative, 25 percent of HIE initiatives have too few staffers in place with serious IT experience.  (My guess is that the number is at least that high in hospitals and even higher for mid-sized or smaller medical practices.)

The government has made some efforts to address the problem. As some readers may know, the Office of the National Coordinator’s Health IT Workforce Development program has workforce training programs in place to help meet the demand for health IT workers. The courses are being rolled out at nine universities and 82 community colleges. To date, apparently, more than 9,000 community college students have gotten health IT training, with 8,706 enrolled to train.

But even if these programs were turning out more than enough employees, it seems that employers aren’t yet confident about the quality of graduates. The same eHealth Initiative report concludes that very few HIEs are currently planning to hire or have hired workers from the workforce development program. The report doesn’t say why, but I’m guessing that it’s a matter of waiting to see how the program’s first few crops of grads work out.

This makes me wonder: Is there a way to turn out more health IT workers in a manner that would inspire the immediate urge to hire? For example, would a program routing Ivy League IT grads into health IT programs make a bigger dent? Would love to hear your thoughts.