Infrastructure unready for new EMR tools

A new poll finds near unanimous agreement that IT systems aren't prepared to fully integrate analytics, mobile and other tools into clinical workflow
By Mike Miliard
10:54 AM
Share
Crumbling foundation

Providers have begun to make targeted use of leading-edge technologies to optimize their electronic medical records, but the vast majority don't yet have the IT capacity to make full use of advancements such as big data and the cloud.

[See also: Is the post-EHR era upon us?]

That's according to a new report from MeriTalk, which polled 151 hospital IT executives in an effort to take stock of how deployments of mobile tools, social media and more are helping improve the capabilities of EMRs.

Sponsored by EMC, the study shows that while many providers are aware of the benefits of these technologies, and have plans to implement them in the next year or two, a whopping 96 percent of organizations say their infrastructure isn't yet prepared for the evolution of their EMR.

[See also: Cloud choice no longer 'pie in the sky']

Two-thirds of hospitals are running EMR applications in the cloud, the poll shows, with most deploying a private cloud strategy (49 percent), followed by hybrid and public clouds (35 percent).

Big data and analytics are also starting to make inroads, with half of hospitals reporting that analytics tools are helping them reduce readmissions and track patient outcomes. That proliferation of clinical and financial data is also helping with cost/benefit analysis to help providers reduce project risk (46 percent), manage clinical and IT staffing levels (38 percent), and prescribe preventative care (24 percent), according to MeriTalk.

Slowly, mobile and social media are also making an impact, the study shows, with 57 percent of IT professionals reporting mobile tools have helped offer insights into real-time patient information as caregivers work toward making more informed patient care decisions. Clinical notifications (46 percent), e-prescribing (41 percent) and patient communication and reminders (38 percent) are among the top uses reported for mobile tech.

More than half of providers (54 percent) are also using social media in conjunction with their EMR to facilitate secure collaboration and 52 percent are communicating with patients and sending medication/follow up reminders.

Surprisingly, a fairly robust sampling of providers (31 percent) say they're collecting data from wearable technology.

The health IT professionals polled say they expect their 2015 spending to increase for more advanced uses of cloud, big data, mobile and social, according to MeriTalk. It's hoped, of course, that extra funding will bring significant ROI.

By 2016, the poll shows healthcare providers anticipate that big data can help them save 21 percent of their annual IT budgets, or $7.2 billion, and cloud can help trim 20 percent from their budgets, or $6.9 billion. Mobile and social, meanwhile, are hoped to account for $5.5 billion and $3.8 billion in savings, respectively.

But providers are less sanguine when asked to assess the current readiness of their IT infrastructure for these new capabilities. Just 4 percent of respondents stated that they're already prepared for EMR enhancements. 

To position their infrastructure for growth and evolution, 47 percent of those polled say they'll enhance security systems, 38 percent aim to improve application performance, 31 percent will invest in cloud technology and 31 percent plan to modernize their backup and recovery tools.

"Accurate diagnosis is the first step on the journey to a cure," said Steve O'Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk, in a press statement announcing the survey. "The healthcare industry needs to change its IT diet to ensure better healthcare outcomes for America."