August 2, 2009

“Cash For Clunkers” Has Nothing On The “High Tech Act”

When asked about top IT priorities for the next two years, participant’s of the 2009 HIMSS Leadership Survey of CIOs showed that priorities had a familiar ring--clinical systems were way out in front followed by optimizing current systems and ambulatory systems. Within the priority of clinical systems, ensuring a full EMR, CPOE and medication administration systems - most have low penetration within the industry - were voted to be the top focus by CIOs.

When asked what the leading issues stopping CIOs from implementing these systems were, a couple of the perennial barriers - money and talent - showed little drift from 2008 results. The lack of adequate financial support lead the pack for the ninth consecutive year followed by lack of staffing resources and vendor’s inability to deliver product.

Most interestingly, when asked which business issue would have the greatest impact on health care in the next two years, CIOs indicated financial considerations as the leading concern with demand for capital, finding new revenue sources and improving operational efficiencies by lowering operating costs at the top of the list. Consumer/patient considerations, like quality of care, patient satisfaction, and the demand for health services information by patients, was a very distant second and the only other issue to score more than 10%. These results harmonize with the American Hospital Association’s January study that looked at the effect of diminished access to capital during the economic slowdown. 639 CEOs stated that current and planned cutbacks of planned projects ranked IT third behind upgrading facilities or adding capacity and adding clinical technology.

“Cash for Clunkers” is currently a short-term, multi billion dollar program to get us to replace gas guzzlers with brand new cars offering high mileage benefits. The “HITECH Act” portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 promises $35.3 billion in incentives for healthcare not necessarily to replace much, but more so implement never before seen IT systems that offer greater efficiencies and better mileage for the healthcare dollar. Healthcare providers are eagerly rising to the challenge of these billions being available to modernized their IT infrastructure. With approximately 870,000 healthcare entities doing business in North America, less than 5,000 of these being hospitals, the only thing clear at this point is that some of the financial constraints listed in the survey may be ameliorated.

As is almost the traditional practice in healthcare, the larger vendors and their healthcare IT partners will be omnipresent at the larger sites – hospitals, large practices – to capture the larger investments and rely on the channel to cover the estimated remaining 875,000 healthcare entities that make up the second and third tiers. To help the channel do so, they have upgraded their healthcare programs to seize this opportunity and help their partners both large and small and include:
  • Microsoft updated its best practices paper, Connected Health Framework Architecture, to help channel partners and customers think about and develop interoperable e-health solutions.
  • Dell and Perot have partnered to help hospitals, health systems and physician practices with integrated IT solutions that virtualized the desktop, storage and server.
  • One of the stronger programs in healthcare, distributor Avnet’s HealthPath, not only educates, but offers onsite internships to its VARs to help them become intimate with the healthcare industry and better capitalize on opportunities created by the stimulus package.
Just like Cash for Clunkers, where those who can help people, who only need a Smart Car instead of a Mini Cooper, choose the right car and teach them how to get just as much out of it, those serving the secondary targets of healthcare and helping them with the secondary problems from the surveys will probably get very good mileage.

Image Credit: jonl1973

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