At the beginning of National Health IT Week, the Health Information and Management Systems Society released a report examining 25 years of the HIMSS Leadership Survey. (The survey itself came out in February at the annual HIMSS conference.)
The report's theme can be boiled down to a simple phrase: Everything old is new again.
- Survey respondents named the electronic health record (EHR) the biggest growth area for healthcare IT, albeit one that was still five to 10 years from reaching its full potential – in 1992. (That was so long ago that the EHR was called the "computer-based patient record.")
- "Clinician complaints about ease of use" represented the most frustrating problem for IT leaders – in 1994.
- Concerns about lowering healthcare costs and proving better, more managed care motivated IT implementation – in 1995. (Back then it was called "computerization.")
- "Providing caregivers with remote access to patient records" presented a challenge to organizations looking to increase adoption of IT systems – in 1998.
In fact, as Lorren Pettit of HIMSS Analytics sees it, the historical parallels between today and yesterday actually go back further – to the Industrial Revolution. Back then, the skilled workers being displaced by technology responded by breaking the looms. Today, it's physicians pushing back against EHR systems that they see as getting in the way of the care they provide.
IT represents a key variable here, Pettit says; physicians will see IT as either supporting their role or diminishing it. This, he adds, points to a larger need for healthcare organizations to be both high-tech, embracing the clinical and patient-facing systems than enhance care, and high-touch, emphasizing the value of patient-physician interaction in all its forms. IT will have to play a greater role in improving patient engagement, Pettit says, or at the very least stand alongside whoever leads those efforts.
In conjunction with the release of the report and its accompanying infographic – which appears below courtesy of HIMSS – Pettit wrote a blog post tracing his own healthcare journey, from a psych therapist with laudably legible handwritten notes to his current role at HIMSS Analytics. He wrote, he says, because he used to be "fairly dismissive of IT" but now knows better. He hopes his peers don't feel the same way he once did.
"I would hope others who aren't in IT but are in healthcare don't go down the same path I did and [dismiss] IT or put it off to the side," he says. "IT is a very strategic part of the organization."