New Research Shows Hospitals Progressing With Electronic Medical Records and ‘Meaningful Use,’ But CIOs Indicate Major Concerns About Lack of Interoperability

February 16, 2012
  • New Optum Institute/Harris Interactive national survey of hospital CIOs suggests major strides in adoption of electronic medical record systems
  • CIOs concerned about growing costs and burdens related to lack of interoperability between systems, and incomplete data available through health information exchanges

A new survey commissioned by the Optum Institute for Sustainable Health (the Optum Institute) published today provides the most up-to-date national snapshot of U.S. hospitals’  information systems adoption, and their strategies and concerns about the future.

The Optum Institute commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a survey of 301 U.S. hospital CIOs to explore overall progress in digitizing medical care, current health information technology (HIT) capabilities, plans for HIT expansion, stage of “meaningful use” progress, value of interoperability, and benefits and challenges associated with technology use. The survey (Health Information Technology: Hospital CIOs) was conducted online by Harris Interactive between December 2011 and January 2012.

Hospitals making impressive strides with electronic medical records (EMRs)

Nearly nine out of 10 hospitals surveyed (87 percent) now have EMR systems in place – up significantly since 2011, when the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) reported that only slightly more than half of CIOs had a fully operational electronic health record in at least one facility in their organization. Seventy percent of CIOs report their systems have attested to meaningful use 1 criteria (MU1) and 75 percent anticipated being able to meet expected meaningful use 2 (MU2) criteria by 2014.

Tweet this: Optum Institute survey of hospital CIOs shows #EMR adoption up significantly

“Hospitals are making substantial gains in adopting electronic medical records, participating in health information exchanges, and achieving ‘meaningful use,’” said Simon Stevens, chairman of the Optum Institute. “But hospital chief information officers are clearly signaling that technology gaps remain, genuine interoperability remains elusive, and – as a result – most U.S. hospitals are still some way off from being fully ready to play their part in managing population health and its related financial risk.”

Key barriers remain

The survey identified six main technology concerns facing hospital CIOs:

Technology-related spending continues to rise: CIOs are making new investments to modify their systems, link with other systems, purchase upgrades, or buy entirely new systems. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they had to modify their system significantly in some way or purchase another system entirely. For those that have implemented EMR and HIE systems, hospital CIOs report that new capabilities have so far raised hospital costs, not reduced them. 

Gaps in key care information: Almost two-thirds of hospitals said they own their own health information exchange (HIE), but key care information, including hospital discharge information, computerized prescriptions, physician clinical notes, and lists of patient allergies and medications, is available only about half the time.

Interoperability among the major concerns:  Among those participating in an HIE, data is on average accessible for only 60 percent of patients through the HIE. Two-thirds of respondents found data accuracy/completeness to represent the biggest business and technical issue they faced in using HIE capabilities, followed by inaccessible proprietary systems and high costs of interoperability.    

Compliance barriers: For those that have an EMR system, the largest barriers to complying with meaningful use requirements include cost (57 percent), sufficient time (55 percent), and legacy system incompatibility (34 percent).

Extending systems to the cloud: Recognizing the benefits of cloud computing, 59 percent of those who have an HIE/EMR system plan to invest in cloud-based open systems. 

Reform readiness: Hospital CIOs report being more prepared to assume broader responsibility in managing patient care than financial risk. Still, only one in four CIOs report that hospitals in their community are extremely/very prepared for increased responsibilities from managing patient care, and only 15 percent say they are extremely/very prepared for managing the associated financial risks.

Tweet this: Optum Institute CIO survey shows cost, timescales, #interoperability key to #MeaningfulUse of #EMRs

“This survey is part of the Optum Institute’s mission to understand and further clinically integrated, financially viable health systems that increase the quality of care,” said Carol Simon, director of the Optum Institute. “It underlines the striking need for stronger interoperability standards as hospitals invest in EMRs and achieving meaningful use. It also points to areas of opportunity, such as investment in cloud-based technology, which can provide widespread access to applications and additional functionality.”

The full issue brief and survey results are available via the research center of the Optum Institute website.

This survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Optum Institute for Sustainable Health between December 2011 and January 2012 among 301 U.S. hospital CIOs, regarding overall progress in digitizing medical care, current HIT capabilities and plans for expansion, stage of “meaningful use” attestation, value of interoperability, benefits and challenges associated with technology use, and select other issues. Results were weighted to reflect the size distribution of the U.S. hospital industry. To qualify for the survey, CIOs were required to have input on evaluation and/or selection of EMR or HIE systems for their hospitals.

About the Optum Institute
Optum established the Optum Institute to serve as an authoritative source of analytical insights on the rapidly changing U.S. health care landscape, while acting as a constructive enabler of sustainable health communities. The Optum Institute works in partnership with consumers, health professionals, hospitals, employers, governments, health plans and the life sciences industry to help transform health care delivery. More information is available at

About Optum
Optum ( is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. Optum comprises three companies – OptumHealth, OptumInsight and OptumRx – representing over 30,000 employees worldwide who collaborate to deliver integrated, intelligent solutions that work to modernize the health system and improve overall population health. 


Be the First to Know

Stay up-to-the-minute on the latest headlines from UnitedHealth Group.