Implementing electronic medical records has become the top priority for senior healthcare information professionals, a major US survey has shown.

The survey revealed that although recession is being felt in the US, healthcare and healthcare IT are still expected to grow over the coming year.

The 20th Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual survey of chief information officers found that 31% of the 304 participants said their number one priority is to ensure their organisation has a full EMR.

Within the clinical environment, 31% of participants said that at least one of their facilities already had a fully functioning EMR, which is a 9% increase on last year.

A further 17% said that their primary focus would be implementing a computerised provider order entry system.

Most respondents completed the research before the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act – President Obama’s economic stimulus bill – was signed in February, which aims for widespread adoption of healthcare IT and electronic medical records.

Survey respondents also confirmed that the weakened economy meant that although healthcare budgets and staff continue to grow, it is now at a much slower pace. Around half said that their IT budgets would increase, compared to 78% last year. Some 42% said that their staffing levels would increase compared to 68% last year.

Charles Christian, chair of the HIMSS board said of the 2009 survey: “The economy is affecting all sectors, healthcare IT included, but the good news is healthcare IT still continues to grow.”

CIOs said financial support continues to be a barrier for healthcare IT professionals with 28% noting that lack of adequate resources raises significant issues in decision-making plans and implementing IT.

The survey also highlighted some key issues that have been at the forefront of healthcare IT in recent years, including the importance of IT in reducing medical errors.

However, although reducing medical errors was the key priority for US healthcare industry CIOs in 2007, now only 38% of respondents suggested that IT would reduce medical errors.

But security remained a key concern with 84% of respondents said their organisation actively assesses security risks. Despite this, one in four said that they had had a security breach within the past six months, an increase on previous years.

Respondents identified single-sign on as the technology that will be most widely adopted at their organisations in the next two years.

The HIMSS survey covers 250 unique healthcare organisations, almost 700 hospitals throughout the US It aims to track the shifts in healthcare implementation and attitudes and documents steady progress in healthcare IT.





HIMSS singing

Patient safety tops IT priorities in CIO poll