In conjunction with its annual meeting this past week in Las Vegas, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) released its annual survey of IT leaders. In the accompanying press release, HIMSS pointed to one notable finding: the presence of a “clinical IT” executive at a healthcare organization, such as a Chief Medical Information Officer or Chief Nursing Informatics Officer, was associated with a higher rate of perception that health IT is a strategic priority at that institution (86% for those who have that type of executive-level leader vs. 62% who do not).1
To some this finding may seem obvious. Having a leader who can bridge the gap between clinicians and the power of technology will go a long way in making IT relevant to a hospital.
But thinking more broadly, how are we really doing in using IT to drive improved clinical and financial outcomes in healthcare? Clearly the US regulation-driven approach (e.g., meaningful use and value based-payment) has led to significantly higher rates of information technology adoption. But to take just one example, are we actually having a meaningful impact on providers’ productivity such that they are able to meet rising demand for healthcare services without costs increasing in proportion to this need for care? In other words, are we increasing the value created in healthcare? The evidence so far is decidedly mixed and difficult to parse from overall macroeconomic trends.
We clearly have a long way to go before we start to “meaningfully” impact health outcomes, address the financial challenges of delivering greater value in healthcare, and truly “bend the cost curve.”
Yes, there is now greater access and insurance coverage today through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And we made significant progress in just a few years in digitizing health records. But achieving real results (clinical and financial) is another matter.
And to actually change the system, we need to be listening much more intently to the primary actors in our health system….physicians and nurses. Not just “clinical IT executives” in the C-suite but the “front line” clinicians.
We need them to be more engaged and championing the adoption of new solutions. In a world of hospital consolidation and standardization, I worry that clinicians, those who should have the most to say about what works and what doesn’t, what matters to the patient and what doesn’t, are not fully engaged. The health care IT industry needs to be more focused on their world as well.
These trusted advisors will ultimately help drive higher patient engagement in their own health, one patient at a time. But this increased engagement and associated outcomes should also come through the advice and support of these providers to simplify the complex, focus on root causes and not symptoms, and help patients have access to and rely on sources of information that merit their trust. We need our physicians and nurses to be much more engaged in the “next wave” of health IT adoption and we need to truly listen to them as only they can have the ground level and system-wide impact on the delivery of healthcare and the improved outcomes we are seeking.
- Shaw, Glenna. HIMSS Leadership Survey: Clinicians have a positive influence on organizations’ IT attitudes. FierceHealthIT, March 1, 2016.