The Current State of Healthcare Technology
To say that it is an “intense” time for hospital IT departments, is it putting it mildly. To describe the current state of healthcare information technology, the military-inspired acronym VUCA, volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity is apt.
One pressing issue for healthcare CIOs everywhere is the implementation of electronic health records (EHR) as a result of the federal meaningful use incentive program. Beyond EHR implementation, hospitals must also consider the impact of wearable technology, the principle of accountable care, the challenge of patient engagement, an evolving business model, the ICD-10 conversion, omnipresent security threats and shifting reimbursement models.
Furthermore, none of these pressing issues are mutually exclusive. For example, the growing appetite for data within healthcare organizations brings greater responsibility for protecting the data from sophisticated hacking attacks. The adoption of EHR systems comes with an enormous amount of data collection and storage on individual consumers, information hackers gleefully want to steal. According to one report, healthcare data is more expensive on the black market than regular consumer credit card data. In 2015, hacking, skimming, phishing and other cyber-threats accounted for 38 percent of security breaches within the healthcare industry, and that trend is expected to continue into 2016.
The Evolving Role of the Healthcare CIO
Each vertical market presents its own challenges to CIOs, but few offer as many obstacles as the healthcare industry. They must balance stringent security and privacy regulations with a pressing need to improve IT amid the political firestorm of healthcare reform, increasing pressure to cut costs, general reluctance among health care professionals to trust technology and a shortage of IT talent in the industry.
CIOs are no longer IT “fix-it” guys, when managing computing infrastructure and packaged software were the only key CIO responsibilities within the organization. A CIO is now expected to be a business driver utilizing technology. They may be part of healthcare organizations, but they lead new technology product development, facilitate internal customer adoption (which follows the product life cycle curve), drive innovation, protect data in their private cloud, and may also sell their innovations as services outside of their own organizations. Currently 10 percent of CIOs are following a model called “CIO 2.0”—CIOs as transformational leaders, driving business strategy, and expanding their responsibilities beyond the traditional role. The goal is to see 50 percent of CIOs adopt this model.
The Future of Healthcare IT
The transformational role of the healthcare CIO parallels the transformation within healthcare IT in general. The idea is to use digital technologies such as telehealth and mobile health to support patient-centered care, care management and population health.
Unlike in the “old days”, rather than continually spending money on the same infrastructure, it’s time to embrace innovative, agile infrastructure arrangements like cloud technology and service models that shrink spending at the bottom of the pyramid to improve spending in the middle and the top. This allows healthcare providers to create an offering focused on changing patient needs.
Wherein there lies the rub? Often technology services together serve as the crucial infrastructure that no one sees yet everyone such as doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators, rely on in order to do their jobs effectively. The goal of healthcare CEOs is to reduce healthcare costs while improving patient care, a continuing challenge within the industry. Without real proof of ROI in these technology services, especially newer, progressive technology tools, how can CEOs approve such investment?
The need for partnership and collaboration comes into play, with dynamic and bright CIOs at the helm, driving change.