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Electronic health records

Hospital IT budgets growing, despite eHealth scandals

TORONTO - Although the eHealth scandals of 2009 wreaked political havoc on provincial governments across the country, the majority of hospital IT budgets have increased this year over last and the trend is expected to continue in 2011-2012.

As part of a survey dealing mainly with interoperability and connectivity, Canadian Healthcare Technology recently asked 300 CIOs and IT directors across the country about their IT budgets, and whether the eHealth embarrassments of the last year have taken a toll on IT projects at their hospitals. Fifty-two CIOs and IT directors responded and completed the survey. Many of them are responsible for multiple hospitals and whole health regions.

According to the respondents, average spending on IT in 2009-2010 reached 3.02 percent of hospital operating budgets. Hospital IT spending is expected to rise to 3.17 percent in 2010-2011 (the current year), and to 3.23 percent of operating budgets in 2011-2012.

Still, about a quarter of Canada’s hospitals have seen their information technology budgets reduced as a result of the eHealth scandals that erupted last year. Of them, 15% said it will take two to three years for their budgets to recover, while another 8.5% said it will take three years or more.

On the whole, however, it appears that hospital executives and boards have been convinced of the importance of further investments and are determined to carry on with modernization. At the same time, many lessons have been learned in the past few years about IT project management in the healthcare sector, lessons that, with any luck, should lead to better outcomes.

Hospital executives apparently have more confidence in themselves than their governments to create eHealth systems. Asked if they thought their provincial governments had an ability to create an effective eHealth strategy, 42 percent of the respondents said not at all; 52 percent said their governments had ‘a moderate ability’; and only 6 percent checked off the ‘excellent ability’ category. So much for confidence in the government designers of a modern healthcare system.

Canadian Healthcare Technology’s study, titled “The Communication Gap: Problems and Plans for Interoperable Systems in Canadian Hospitals,” covers the following topics:

• the state of clinical interoperability within hospitals and with outside hospital organizations;

• clinical interoperability among hospitals, long-term care centres and physician practices;

• barriers to interoperability and connectivity;

• usage of various standards in hospitals;

• wireless use in hospitals today and plans for the near future;

• views of CIOs and IT directors on whether provincial eHealth programs are useful - or not;

• IT investment plans.

The full report, with tables and analysis, will be published by Canadian Healthcare Technology this fall.

Posted August 26, 2010