Users Take Cautious Approach to ‘E-Health'

DALLAS (04/18/2000) - Internet-related projects will be a top priority for health care information technology executives this year. But some attendees of the 11th annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference last week said they are taking a cautious approach toward "e-health," as many products have yet to mature.

Nearly two-thirds of health care providers said they will likely deploy Internet technologies this year, according to a survey of more than 800 health care IT executives. Chicago-based HIMSS released the survey results at the conference, where an unexpectedly high turnout topped 20,000 people. IBM sponsored the survey.

But in spite of the wide range of technology issues at hand for health care IT executives, most vendors and users were talking about electronic health, which, according to users, is filled with hype.

"Walking the [exhibit] floor, I'm trying to separate the vapor from the reality," said Scott Cebula, executive director of information services at Memorial Care, a group of five hospitals in Long Beach, California. "A lot of products aren't there in what is considered e-health. They're not mature solutions [that are] widely implemented."

One reason users should approach electronic-health initiatives with caution is that some vendors in this market won't survive in the next year, according to Michael Davis, a research director at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. Consequently, Davis advises his clients not to sign a contract with an electronic-health vendor that lasts more than two years.

Although the health care industry has seen some major online supply-chain initiatives in recent weeks, many providers will probably take a wait-and-see approach, said Gregory Walton, CIO at Carilion Health System in Roanoke, Virginia. With limited resources, Walton said, his dollars are better spent on a new CAT scanner while he waits "for vendors to get their act together."

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