This week, I caught a news update noting that Evansville, IN-based Deaconess Health System had just gotten the HIMSS Analytics Stage 7 EMR adoption award. Deaconess, which chose Epic for its rollout, made the trip from paper-based to digital care in a scant two years.
Deaconess is now one of only 65 hospitals which have been cited by HIMSS as having reached Stage 7. That’s just a hair over 1 percent of the roughly 5,800 hospitals operating in the U.S. (More than 46 percent of hospitals are still at Stage 3, according to the latest HIMSS statistics.)
That being said, I didn’t put fingers to keyboard to rave about Deaconess, though the team there obviously deserves kudos for their accomplishment.
Rather, I’m concerned by the fact that if HIMSS is right, 99 percent of its peers are behind, including 10 percent who haven’t even begun the EMR adoption process. After all, if hospitals aren’t really “there” until they reach Stage 7, how will the industry survive at this pace? Can hospitals afford to sit on technology that won’t perform at its best for several more years?
Worse, it seems fairly likely that the differences are due to factors which will prove very difficult to change.
When you dig into the HIMSS data a bit, you’ll find that there are big disparities between academic medical centers (averaging scores of 4.2) and critical access hospitals (averaging scores of 2.3). In other words, large institutions with prestige to maintain and armies of staffers are more likely to move ahead with EMR development than a lonely CAH. There’s a shocker.
And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that while hospitals from 0-100 beds averaged a 2.6 score, those with 600+ beds averaged 4.2 on the HIMSS adoption scale. That $10 to $20 million Epic investment is a bit more sobering when you’re a smallish community player rather than a giant regional center of gravity.
Of course, there will always be those who adopt early and those who wait till half past midnight, and I wouldn’t bother trying to change it. But I do think we should stop and ask ourselves whether we can do anything to even out the differences between the big and small hospitals, the isolated and the centralized.
After all, at this stage in the game, hospitals simply can’t afford to say “I’ve got my great EMR, who cares if you do!” There’s too much at stake. If you don’t like dealing with Meaningful Use regs now, you’re really not going to like it if the feds don’t like the way HITECH works out. It’s time to think about a common health IT future.