Since the late 1990’s, healthcare delivery organizations have undergone major initiatives to adopt health information technology (HIT). These initiatives have significant potential to improve patient safety, organizational efficiency and patient satisfaction. As of 2009 however, only 2% of non-federal hospitals had a comprehensive electronic health record (EHR), with another 7.6% using a basic EHR. The EHRs are most commonly used for electronic viewing of labs, reports, and images. In addition, one in five hospitals reported a fully implemented computerized order entry and clinical decision support.
There has been a large amount of legislation recently to foster widespread use of HIT. Between 2005 and 2008, a total of 168 pieces of HIT related legislation were passed by state governments. In addition, the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 is providing unprecedented opportunities to expand HIT efforts through grants, loans and financial assistance programs. The legislation also mandates “meaningful use” of an EHR.
Despite the opportunities and support, many hospitals struggle to implement HIT. Inadequate capital is the most common barrier to adoption in hospitals. Other reasons include unclear ROI, maintenance cost, physician resistance and inadequate IT staff. Cloud computing, which has grown in popularity in other industries, could provide a way for healthcare delivery organizations to overcome these barriers.