CHIME survey finds optimism regarding EHR incentive funding, but majority won’t qualify early

April 15, 2011

ANN ARBOR, MI, April 13, 2011 – A third of respondents to a quarterly survey of healthcare chief information officers say they expect their organizations will qualify for stimulus funding within the first year of a federal program for implementing electronic health records.

The vast majority of CIOs responding to the survey, conducted in mid-March by the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME), expect their organizations will achieve meaningful use of electronic health records within Stage 1 and get funding under the HITECH portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

A total of 32.5 percent of the 200 CIOs who responded to the survey say they expect to qualify for stimulus funding by September 30, 2011, which marks the first full year of the federal program. An additional 58 percent of CIOs reported that they expect their organizations will qualify during Stage 1, but possibly not until late in federal fiscal years 2012 or 2013.

The total of 90 percent who say their organizations will qualify for stimulus funding in federal fiscal years 2011 to 2013, the first years of the stimulus-funding program, has remained fairly consistent with CHIME’s previous two surveys, conducted in August and November of 2010.

However, a comparison of results from all three CHIME surveys suggests that CIOs are revising estimates of when they expect their organizations will qualify for stimulus funding

Results from the most recent survey illustrate a continued decline in optimism among CHIME members aiming to qualify for funding within the first six months of the federal program. Only 7.5 percent of respondents they expected to qualify for funding by April 1, 2011, compared with 15 percent of respondents to the same question in November and 28 percent of CIOs who responded to the first CHIME survey in August 2010.

“The survey shows that as CIOs begin implementing EHRs to meet the meaningful use targets required to get stimulus funding, they are finding quite a bit of ‘devil is in the details’ as they move along the process,” said Pamela McNutt, Senior Vice President and CIO of Dallas-based Methodist Health System and Chair of CHIME’s Policy Steering Committee.

A majority of respondents to the recent CHIIME survey indicated that their organizations have yet to register for the federal program, a first step in declaring readiness to participate and subsequently demonstrating the meaningful use of EHRs. Only 19.5 percent of CIOs at standalone hospitals say their organizations have already registered for the program, while 29.5 percent of CIOs at multi-hospital systems say their organizations have registered all their hospitals for the program.

Responses from community hospital CIOs suggest that their organizations will need more time to qualify for stimulus funding. Only 26 percent of CIO respondents from community hospitals say they expect to qualify for stimulus funding during the first year of the program, ending on September 30, 2011.  Nearly two-thirds of CIOs from community hospitals now say they are hoping to qualify in late FY2012 or FY2013.

In comparison to the last meaningful use readiness survey by CHIME, more CIOs say they are accelerating plans to implement EHRs, with 40.5 percent reporting such plans in March vs. 35.6 percent in November 2010. David Muntz, Chair of CHIME’s Advocacy Leadership team said, “Though not a large increase, I suspect that financial pressures in the healthcare industry have piqued interest in meaningful use among the CFOs and members of the Board.”  Those who believe their current IT strategy and existing applications would help them meet meaningful use slipped to 39.5 percent in March, compared with 41.9 percent in November.

“As more guidance becomes available and the industry works through the rules, what’s needed to get to MU becomes clearer,” said Sharon Canner, Senior Director of Advocacy for CHIME. “If the deployment of health IT and EMRs was easy, we would have implemented this technology long ago. CIOs are thoughtfully looking at their systems and internal goals of improving patient care, and they’re determining how best to integrate clinical systems in a meaningful way.”

Other findings include:

  • Nearly 90 percent of respondents still have concerns related to meeting Meaningful Use requirements.
  • Capturing and submitting data for quality measures has become the most frequently cited concern of CIOs responding to the survey.
  • Nearly 75 percent of responding CIOs say they are concerned about legislative proposals to repeal incentive funding, including the EHR Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Program. 
  • Some 55 percent of CIO respondents say they still have lingering questions about the program, nearly six months after the October 1, 2010, start of the stimulus funding program.

Results from this survey are based on responses from 200 members, or about 14 percent of CHIME’s membership, who responded to the Internet-based survey, which was available from March 4 through 20. Of those, about 41 percent of respondents work for community hospitals; 30 percent are top IT executives at multi-hospital systems; 12 percent are in top IT roles at academic medical centers; and 17 percent work at other types of healthcare organizations, including critical access hospitals, large group practices, hospital-group practice models or others.

The most recent survey of CHIME members represents the third quarterly survey of the organization’s membership to gauge their perceptions of progress in achieving meaningful use and to measure their views on whether they expect to achieve stimulus funding through the federal program.

CHIME’s membership comprises more than 1,400 chief information officers and other senior healthcare IT executives from a variety of provider organizations, including large hospital systems, community hospitals, for-profit hospitals and small or rural facilities. CHIME members typically oversee the information services department within their organizations and are leaders in implementing EHRs and other clinical systems. Approximately 13 percent of CHIME’s membership responded to the survey.

A full report of the survey may be accessed here:

CHIME plans to continue to survey its membership quarterly to identify trends among healthcare providers in achieving meaningful use and qualifying for stimulus funding.

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