CDW Healthcare Study: Clinicians say IT Solutions Critical to Patient Care, but Often Overlooked, Causing Problems
More than 50 percent of hospitals with over 200 beds are now using electronic health records (EHRs), according to a new study, and 48 percent have deployed computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems, as well.
And, according to CDW (News - Alert) Healthcare, the organization that conducted the survey, 84 percent of nurses and doctors believe their IT departments have made their lives better, and their patients’, safer. A whopping 71 percent believe they could not do their jobs as well without healthcare IT.
But, there’s a caveat: when new software or solutions are added, changing the systems caregivers have come to rely on, 20 percent rate them “as slower,” and 21 percent say they’re harder to use.
The CDW Healthcare study points out that there’s a not always positive give-and-take between users and the constant enhancement of the systems they use. While 43 percent of healthcare professionals view new solutions as very useful in patient care, and 34 percent feel IT is more able to deliver the information they need, there’s still a lag time between the introduction of new software and when caregivers feel comfortable using it.
Full disclosure: As someone who worked for a large US computer company, and had to be dragged kicking and screaming whenever new software came along, I understand the challenges clinicians face, especially with the type of pressure they are under, when presented with new systems. (You’re reading this from someone who was the last person to let go of her typewriter when the newspaper I worked for switched over to computers).
But even more important, the CDW Healthcare study found that organizations often purchase new software and solutions before thinking about the impact they will have on their existing IT structures. They call this “the tipping point.”
“The efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery lies in its maintenance,” agrees Dr. R Chandrashekhar, chief architect DGHS, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
The survey finds that organizations do best when they balance the potential of new systems with “the infrastructure that speeds simple, reliable systems to users.” The study also found that most healthcare IT investments over the last 18 months have targeted “efficiency and consolidation,” rather than “infrastructure expansion.”
Clearly, healthcare professionals feel IT has made their jobs easier, and helped them care better for their patients. And when healthcare institutions add new solutions without the appropriate storage and network capabilities to back them up, caregivers find their jobs increasingly more frustrating and sometimes, almost impossible to do, the study found.
With those institutions that chose to expand their IT infrastructures when adding one to three new systems, 46 percent of caregivers found them “more useful in patient care,” according to the study. Interestingly, the addition of four to six new systems, with appropriate back-up, still had 41 percent of doctors and nurses happy.
But when hospitals introduced new systems without expanding their infrastructures, 12 percent of caregivers felt the new systems were less useful in patient care, while 7 percent found them “available less frequently.”
Fifty four percent of those surveyed said that “out of balance” systems (where new solutions are not matched with new infrastructure) found their IT systems “available but slow,” not something you’d want to find in a “life and death” environment. Over 30 percent said “the process takes longer than it used to,” according to the survey.
A quarter of respondents said that when their systems keep changing, “they can’t keep up,” according to the CDW Healthcare study.
Clearly, IT architectures need to keep up with any new solutions deployed. Yet the study found that organizations often do it backwards – adding the solutions, and only then thinking about the systems to back them up.
To avoid this, the survey recommends that IT departments help executives understand the business case for adding storage and network capabilities, show them comprehensive budgets and “build ahead of capacity.”
Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM (News - Alert) in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell