Core needs, mobility to fuel health IT spending

By Molly Merrill
10:20 AM

Core health IT purchases, including new network equipment, are priority investments for healthcare professionals this year – but the desire for mobility is also driving docs to put Tablet PCs at the top of their shopping lists, according to new research from CompTIA.

CompTIA's Second Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities study also reveals that healthcare providers are generally satisfied with the IT solutions they now use in their practices. But they're also interested in better reliability, improved performance and lower costs for future purchases.
"Healthcare providers have clear objectives for their IT investments – reducing costs, saving time, improving productivity and most importantly, improving patient care," said Tim Herbert, vice president, research, CompTIA. "Anything that may disrupt patient care is a serious issue, so product reliability is especially critical."
Healthcare providers rely on core IT products to care for patients and manage their practices, with desktop and laptop PCs, printers, phone systems and networking equipment the norm at the vast majority of practices. Over the next 12 months, healthcare providers will engage in replacement purchases to refresh outdated equipment and make investments in new equipment to add additional capabilities.

About half of healthcare practices will increase their IT expenditures in the next 12 months, with the rest either holding budgets flat or reducing their IT spending, the study shows. Group practices are most likely to increase spending, while solo practices are relatively more likely to keep IT spending levels flat. Overall, one in three healthcare practices expects to increase IT spending by more than 5 percent over the next year.

According to the CompTIA study, 34 percent of healthcare providers report using a comprehensive EMR system, while 16 percent say they're using a partial system. The remaining segments are either evaluating their options (29 percent) or have not yet started the process (20 percent).
Among healthcare practices with an EMR/EHR implementation, satisfaction rates are generally high, though there is room for improvement. Doctors want systems that are faster, easier to use, have better interoperability and cost less, according to the study.

The desire for mobility and ease of use is another factor that's driving many IT investment decisions. Roughly one in four doctors and dentists say they plan to purchase a tablet PC for their practice over the next 12 months.
Another notable trend reflects the ongoing intersection of traditional IT and consumer electronics. Significant numbers of healthcare providers plan to purchase flat panel TVs over the next 12 months, presumably to provide a better waiting room experience for patients.
"While most of these technologies can work independently, maximizing their value often entails an integrated approach," Herbert advised. "IT firms providing creative, holistic solutions covering both core IT and consumer electronics may be best positioned to capitalize on purchase trends."
Even some of the basics of business – websites, email and text communications – offer opportunities for IT solution providers. The CompTIA study reveals that relatively few doctors take advantage of email or text messaging to communicate with patients, such as reminders about upcoming appointments. But many want to move in this direction and generally further leverage communication tools and information platforms.
CompTIA's Second Annual Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities study was fielded in two separate web-based surveys to 370 U.S. IT firms, about 40 percent of which do business in the healthcare sector; and 300 U.S. healthcare providers, including doctors, dentists, nurses, physician assistants and office managers. The complete report is available here.