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Healthcare IT is Transforming from Supporting Administrative Processes to Supporting Patient Care, Survey Says

Originally published February 18, 2010

 Inadequate focus on reliable IT infrastructures will hobble healthcare organizations' efforts to automate critical operations to improve patient care while cutting costs, according to a commissioned study of 102 U.S. healthcare IT professionals conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Stratus Technologies. Server Availability Trends in the Time of Electronic Health Records: What the Move to Paperless Medical Records Means for Server Reliability finds that, despite debate on the rate of growth or barriers to adoption, EHRs are growing and here to stay. This is transforming the role of IT -- and the IT organization -- from supporting administrative processes to supporting patient care.

Policy makers, patient advocates and healthcare companies themselves agree that electronic patient records and care management systems will improve treatment by reducing error rates and costly duplication. A focus on front-end applications and the handheld devices they run on, however, has overshadowed the server and network layers of the IT infrastructure, where the critical data processing and retrieval will occur, the study said. Without highly reliable server infrastructures, patient information systems are likely to perform poorly and lead to frustrated medical personnel, lower quality care and lost revenues.

Although healthcare IT professionals are aware of their needs at the server and network levels, they face scant financial and staff resources for meeting them. "Healthcare IT professionals face significant challenges in maintaining server availability," according to the study's findings. "And the impact on the delivery of care and operations of the hospital or physician practice were significant, ranging from overtaxed and disgruntled medical staff to delays in patient care. Availability has become an imperative, yet health care IT professionals struggle to meet the challenge," the study said.

The survey recommends a three-pronged strategy for developing a durable, reliable server infrastructure:

  • Assess your entire server portfolio and identify critical and key points of failure that impact care. Identify the function and the process role of each server and assign a rating to the impact of a failure.
  •  Develop a strategy for server availability around a solid set of tools that minimize the cost impact.
  • Align with a vendor that understands health care's requirements for availability. Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents felt that having a server vendor that understood the health care sector's unique needs was a critically important factor to them.
"Between the focus on health care at the national level and the federal funds available, there may never be a better time for healthcare organizations to convert to electronic healthcare records," said Karen Ramirez, Stratus healthcare sales executive. "They have a lot of anxiety about how to do it correctly and within their means. With the right combination of forethought, planning and product selection, healthcare IT can provide the reliability and performance that patient healthcare applications need to deliver cost savings and better quality care."

This BeyeNETWORK news item contains information from a recent press release by the company mentioned.