10 IT initiatives your hospital should undertake in 2012

A new year means a fresh start, and as 2012 creeps closer, it's time to think about new IT approaches. Although the reform may mandate certain IT practices be implemented, other non-required initiatives will help to streamline workflows, save money and improve care in the new year.

Fred Pennic, senior advisor with Aspen Advisors and author of the blog Healthcare IT Consultant, suggested 10 initiatives hospitals should undertake in 2012. 

1. Meeting Stages 1 and 2 of meaningful use. According to Pennic, meaningful use compliance should be the top priority in health IT during the years to come. "More providers are currently attesting for Stage 1 meaningful use, although it is still unclear if Stage 2 will be delayed until 2014," he said. According to a study published online by Health Affairs, hospitals should be prepared for a higher standard associated with Stage 2 in order to produce improved patient outcomes; authors of the study believe Stages 2 and 3, which will require providers to use electronic orders for 60 to 80 percent of patients, will have a significant impact on both patient mortality rates and care. 

2. Health information exchange (HIE). Meaningful use and HIE go hand in hand, said Pennic. "Interoperability is key as it relates to meaningful use’s objectives of electronically exchanging clinical information and summaries of care, along with submitting lab results to public health agencies, et cetera," he said. Looking for resources or a way to network and learn what others are doing when it comes to HIE? The HIMSS HIE Toolkit and the HIMSS HIE Wiki offer insights and information regarding HIE, including important national and state level initiatives. 

[See also: Cloud computing myths vs. risks.]

3. Virtualization and cloud computing. “As healthcare organizations deal with competing priorities from HITECH/ARRA, Meaningful Use, HIPAA 5010, ICD-10, and ACA, hospitals are constantly trying to reduce costs while providing accessible health information,” said Pennic. In our round up of the 5 technologies every hospital should be using, Shahid Shah, an enterprise software analyst, agreed that virtualization and cloud computing can streamline workflows, save time, and reduce costs. “As soon as possible, make it so that no applications should be sitting in physical servers," he said. "Start to phase out those apps that cannot be virtualized. When apps are virtualized, they can easily be scaled and recovered." 

4. Disaster recovery/business continuity. Pennic said as healthcare providers begin to adopt and implement EMR systems, it's imperative to have a disaster recovery solution in place to handle potential downtime occurrences. With recent weather events impacting hospitals across the country, developing and uploading a disaster recovery plan to a web-based inventory tool is imperative and a smart way to access your plan offsite.   

5. ICD-10. According to Pennic, since providers must meet CMS regulations for the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, they should be performing ICD-10 assessments that provide a readiness assessment, impact assessment and implementation plan to prepare for the deadline. "Specifically, IT should focus on sending vendor surveys to all vendors that are impacted by ICD-10," he said. By doing this, hospitals are able to specifically state what their upgrade efforts are and what they aim to have in place to comply with ICD-10 regulations. “ICD-10 touches everything and impacts every point of delivery in healthcare,” Pennic added.

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