HIMSS 2017: IT growth expected but vendors too quickly 'moving on' from EHRs

The 2017 HIMSS Leadership and Workforce Survey found a strong demand for health IT employees and continued growth in IT budgets for both vendors and providers. In some cases, however, providers and vendors aren’t sharing the same priorities.

Lorren Pettit, vice president, health information systems and research for HIMSS, said at the group's 2017 show in Orlando that health IT leaders are “pretty much in sync” on what providers and vendors consider to be top priorities, according to the survey. For example, providers named quality and patient safety outcomes as most important for their clinical IT efforts, while vendors and consultants ranked it as the No. 2 priority for those clients.

The disconnect was seen when it came to newer forces in the marketplace. Providers listed electronic health records (EHRs) as their second highest IT priority. Vendors and consultants, on the other hand, appeared to have “moved on” from EHRs, expecting it’s only the eighth-highest priority for clients.

“This is why I call it a healthy tension because there is this push and pull in the marketplace where the providers are, in essence, saying 'Hold on, we still need to get our heads and our arms around and master this thing called the EHR,'” Pettit said.

The same disconnect, only in the opposite direction, was reported for dealing with new payment models. Vendors and consultants guessed this would be more important to providers in 2017, listing it as the No. 4 priority. Providers said otherwise, placing it at No. 10.

When broken down by type of providers, vendors and consultants were more in tune with hospitals’ IT needs than with ambulatory centers or long-term post-acute care (LTPAC) facilities. For example, vendors considered new population health and care coordination a much lower priority for LTPAC in 2017, when in reality it was one of their highest, according to those providers.

On the business side, the survey revealed strong economic indicators for health IT in 2017. 56 percent of providers and 87 percent of vendors and consultants plan to increase their IT budgets, while 61 percent of vendors and 42 percent of providers have filled new IT positions in the past years. For vendors and hospitals, there remains a great demand for talent, with 61 percent of respondents in both categories reporting having open positions to fill.

Vendors tended to “more bullish,” according to Pettit, with 66 percent expecting to increase the number of full-time IT positions this year, compared to 36 percent of hospitals, 26 percent of ambulatory organizations, and 22 LTPAC facilities expecting the same sort of expansion.

Those latter two categories may need more vendor attention, Pettit said. He pointed to “remarkable” survey results where nearly a third of ambulatory organizations and LTPAC facilities said they don’t have a dedicated IT executive, and some reported having no full-time IT employees.

“This to me is sort of a barometer of the challenge that we have going forward in terms of how can we best advance (health IT) in these other sectors, the non-hospital market, in the advance of a full-time or any IT leader,” Petit said.