Half of health care executives plan to buy EHR systems

When a health care organization decides to purchase an electronic health record system, the expenses go far beyond the initial price tag. To make the most of the software, staff members need to be trained on best practices and disparate departments all need to be kept informed of not only the ways that the EHR system will interact with their workflows, but how they will be expected to communicate with other departments through the technology.

However, according to a survey of health care executives around the industry conducted by Premier, almost half of all respondents plan to invest in new EHR software by the end of 2014. Not only does this indicate that many are unhappy with the functionalities currently offered by their EHR systems, but that these executives understand that going without the technology is not an option in the modern health care world.

Spending money to make money
Any surveyor would have a difficult time finding health care professionals who believe that health information technology will be a shrinking market over the next 10 years, but that does not mean that as many people would be willing to open their wallets to purchase more modern and better functioning software. However, that is exactly the case that Premier found through its survey of health care executives from hospital systems, provider groups and physician practices across the U.S.

Premier collected responses from 127 C-suite executives, 43 percent of whom were working in rural hospitals and 26 percent of whom were from hospitals with less than 200 beds.

The survey found that even though not all workplaces experienced a smooth transition to EHR software in the past, 49 percent of respondents indicated that their organization's largest capital investment in 2014 would go toward health IT software, including EHR systems. Health IT remained the biggest purchasing source for health care for the second straight year, though the number of positive respondents is up from 46 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2012.

"Hospitals are making necessary investments in infrastructure to meet the demands of this new generation of health care," Michael J. Alkire, Premier's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "What we are hearing increasingly from health care leaders is dissatisfaction with their existing EHR systems, often citing cost and difficulty of use. Providers need a solution that integrates clinical, financial and operational data across their hospitals and health systems; the majority of EHR systems cannot do that."

Diversifying health care tasks
Though health IT may draw the majority of health care organizations' spending funds in 2014, the participating executives were quick to admit that they would rather spend more money to buy the right piece of equipment than cut corners for a hastily developed EHR system. In fact, 42 percent indicated that the number of similar EHR vendors on the market serves to dilute the field, making it more difficult to find the right item for their needs.

However, Durral Gilbert, president of supply chain services for Premier, explained in a statement that hospital systems cannot simply throw money at an EHR system and hope that all their troubles go away. Even the successful implementation of new EHR software requires multi-departmental cooperation, and health care executives should keep this in mind as they search for new EHR systems in the future. While the technology is necessary for meaningful use as mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, it cannot revolutionize a hospital or practice overnight.

"This is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires connecting cost, clinical and supply chain data and analytics to drive significant change over the long term," Gilbert said in a statement.