Study forecasts delays in shift to electronic medical records

A new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers finds that the  chief information officers at eight in 10 hospitals worry they won't be able to digitize their patients' medical records by 2015, as required by law. Last year's recovery act set aside $2 billion in incentives for early adopters of electronic health records but calls for penalties for those that don't make the shift by 2015.

The survey of 120 hospital CIOs who are members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) found that only half the CIOs surveyed say they will be prepared to meet the first set of meaningful use requirements and apply for incentive bonuses in 2011, the first year they are available. They're also worried about meeting later-stage requirements within the specified time frames, according to a summary of the report.

Barriers identified in the surveys include:

•Lack of clarity and final regulations.
•Shortage of skilled staff.
•Uncertain fallout from consolidation in the industry.
•Unknown cost of the required infrastructure capabilities.

The survey comes as speculation intensifies that some of the implementation deadlines for electronic health records may be allowed to slip.