According to International Data Corporation (IDC), IT spending is expected to reach $2.7 trillion worldwide in 2020. Healthcare is expected to be among the top three industries spending the most on IT, along with financial services and manufacturing, and is projected to remain the fastest growing industry at 5.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
In February, healthcare IT leaders gathered in Orlando, Florida, at the HIMSS 17 (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference to discuss the leading challenges, opportunities, and technology solutions in the healthcare industry and to collaborate on ideas.
Tackling the Road Ahead
Without question, the subject of cybersecurity dominated the conference this year. Ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations made headlines in 2016, and many expect that trend to continue this year. As a result, IT leaders are setting their sights on the issue. In fact, according to a survey of 100 healthcare IT leaders at the conference, 81% said their organizations are looking to increase cybersecurity spending in 2017.
While the need to address cybersecurity is known, only 42% of those surveyed said their healthcare organization has a C-level executive in charge of cybersecurity. But what’s worse, only 62% of those who have a C-level executive in charge of security indicated that security was discussed at their quarterly board meetings.
The healthcare landscape is complex, and it continues to change. Healthcare CEOs are under considerable pressure to address financial challenges, improve quality of care, satisfy federal mandates, improve both patient and physician experience, and lower operational costs.
With those overarching goals in mind, where do CIOs plan to focus their attention? According to a survey of CIOs, strengthening data security is their top priority for the next eighteen months followed by increasing patient satisfaction, improving physician satisfaction, complying with federal regulations, and maximizing Electronic Health Record (EHR) integration with other hospitals. Other tasks rounding out their list of objectives include:
- Standardizing on technology
- Integrating hospital communication systems
- Reducing the number of technology vendor partners
- Improving Wi-Fi and cellular coverage on campus
- Communicating critical test results in a timely manner
CIOs have a lot to address in 2017 and beyond. And there is more to come. Here’s a short list of other items that are impacting the industry and demanding attention from IT leaders:
Medical Devices – Medical devices are critical to healthcare delivery. In many cases, people’s lives depend on them. As these devices become more sophisticated and interconnected, many in the industry are concerned about their vulnerability to cyber attacks and are focusing on what can be done to protect them.
Blockchain Technology / Cryptocurrencies – Blockchain technology, such as that used by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, is a topic of discussion in many industries, including healthcare. From payment of claims to exchange of patient data and beyond, blockchain technology has many potential use cases, and The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is examining it.
Artificial Intelligence – We’re all familiar with Siri and Alexa. Today, healthcare leaders are looking at ways they can leverage speech recognition and other AI-based solutions to improve patient care and drive operational efficiencies.
Virtual Reality – VR in healthcare is a burgeoning area. From innovative treatment options, medical exploration, and training, the technology is expected to benefit both patients and staff, and many in the industry expect new uses for the technology to emerge in the years to come.
Patient Access – Organizations are focused on improving the patient experience. One way is to reduce wait times. Through process improvement and technology, healthcare leaders are seeking to streamline the intake and registration process, making it faster and easier for patients to get access to the care they need.
Telemedicine – Technology-enabled remote diagnosis and treatment of patients has made a tremendous difference in healthcare and is expected to grow and mature over time.
Precision Medicine – This is an emerging approach to disease treatment. It allows doctors and researchers to predict more accurately which treatment to use for a particular disease by taking into account a broad array of variables, including a patient’s genes, environment, and lifestyle among other things.
Population Health – Population health continues to be a goal and a challenge in the healthcare industry.
Cloud – Today, no IT conference would be complete without discussing cloud computing. While slower than some other industries, cloud adoption in healthcare is expected to accelerate over the next five years as organizations seek to reduce their on-prem data center footprints.
Staff Augmentation – Healthcare organizations need a lot of people—doctors, nurses, support specialists, systems analysts, HIM technicians, records analysts, patient intake coordinators, and many EMR analysts, integration specialists, and IT experts. As the industry continues to grow and merge, organizations expect the need for specialized expertise to continue.
With a new administration just getting started in Washington D.C., it is unclear how federal mandates may change or how those changes will impact healthcare IT priorities. But one thing is certain: healthcare professionals remain dedicated to improving quality of care, and that will make 2017 another exciting year in healthcare IT.
This is the first article in a series we are doing on More Perspective covering healthcare IT issues and challenges. Please look for our next article coming soon. And for more information on ePlus Healthcare, visit our Healthcare page or send us an email and we would be happy to discuss potential solutions for your environment.