With $20 billion worth of stimulus funding to help providers adopt electronic medical records, hospitals and doctors seem poised — finally! — to enter the digital information age that other vertical markets have already joined.

The topline finding from HIMSS Analytics’ Healthcare Enterprise Survey found that 55% of small and mid-sized hospitals are poised to increase investments in point-of-care systems.

However, the survey also finds this hospital segment is concerned about its ability to scale up data centers to manage the explosion of data they’re about to foster.

Some of the challenges hospitals foresee include security, standards, and how to manage increasing complexity. Results of the survey can be found on a Dell website.

Small and mid-sized hospitals have a significant infrastructure problem: adding more data into current data center structures won’t facilitate the kind of information-sharing that digitizing data (both clinical and imaging) via EMRs. HIMSS gauges increased demand on hospital datacenters at between 20 and 50 percent over the next two years.

The solution, in part, is to adopt server virtualization, Dell says. The HIMSS Analytics survey was sponsored by Dell, which is making inroads into the health vertical. The company announced a deal last year with Sam’s Club (Walmart) and eClinicalWorks to distribute and service eCW EMRs to smaller physician practices.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Dell is a vendor of server technology, so as a sponsor has an interest in promoting the technology. They also suggest software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a useful approach for small to mid-sized hospitals who need to scale up data center operations to deal with the data explosion expected through the adoption of EMRs, growth of digital imaging storage requirements, and calls to use data for decision making at the point-of-care.

Adoption of EMRs in the U.S. won’t live up to their promise if the data the systems capture can’t get accessed where it needs to ‘be:’ that is, in the hands of clinicians, health managers, and patients.

Thanks to Axel Wirth, National Healthcare Solutions Architect with Symantec, for pointing out to me that HIMSS Analytics, and not HIMSS, conducted this survey.