Patient Engagement, Generating Value from IT Systems Top-of-Mind for CIOs

May 21, 2021
Across the industry, healthcare IT departments are feeling intense pressure to not only unify care coordination, but also optimize digital health expansion amid the COVID-19 financial aftermath

Nearly 6 in 10 healthcare chief information officers (CIOs) identified “getting the most out of existing IT purchases, like the EHR [electronic health record] system]” as the biggest financial goal for the year ahead, according to the results of the ninth annual Health IT Industry Outlook Survey conducted by health IT consulting firm Stoltenberg Consulting Inc.

Stoltenberg cohosted the 2021 survey with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) virtually. Survey participants represented CIOs from a comprehensive spectrum of U.S. hospital facilities, including multi-hospital health systems, community hospitals, academic medical centers and ambulatory surgical facilities.

Beyond getting the most out of existing IT purchases, CIOs ranked “maximizing value-based care reimbursement” (20 percent) “improving and sustaining the speed and accuracy of financial reporting” (11 percent) and “reducing claims denials and speeding up patient payments” (9 percent) as their next biggest financial goals for the year ahead.

Across the industry, healthcare IT departments are feeling intense pressure to not only unify care coordination, but also optimize digital health expansion amid the COVID-19 financial aftermath, the report’s authors noted. In terms of operational hurdles, for a second year in a row, “retaining and budgeting for qualified IT resources” (55 percent) stood out as CIOs’ biggest operational burden in the aftershock of many hospitals’ significant IT spending and staffing changes in response to the pandemic.

The pandemic also propelled a shift in overall focus. When asked, “Aside from COVID-19, what do you predict is the biggest focus for the health IT industry this year?” Over half of CIOs (52 percent) deemed “patient engagement” as the industry’s top priority for the year. In a major change from last year, prioritization on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning dropped dramatically. This year, just 14 percent of CIOs said AI is their top area of focus.

Indeed, last year’s reportsimilar to the firm’s 2019 iteration—found that AI represented a dominant theme for health IT leaders. When asked, “Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, what is the biggest topic for health IT in 2020?” nearly 43 percent of respondents chose AI/machine learning in 2020.

According to the 2021 report, “While value-based payment models have long stressed the importance of patient engagement in improving health outcomes, post-COVID-19 consumers expect care experiences to be highly coordinated and highly digital, with tools for managing their health and health information. Health systems that fail to deliver on the digital experience could struggle to attract new consumers following the pandemic. The potential impact: loss of competitive position and difficulty regaining financial health.”

“Whereas healthcare organizations may have previously gone through the motions of patient engagement enablement for value-based care incentives,” said Sheri Stoltenberg, founder and CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting, “the pandemic’s dramatic shift to remote care and true digital health advancement has forever transformed consumer-driven patient expectations toward taking a more active, yet convenient role in their own care journeys.”

When assessing where healthcare organizations plan to invest the most IT dollars over the next year, catching up on “EHR new version upgrades” took the top spot (31 percent).

Considering the onslaught of healthcare ransomware incidents in the past year, “cybersecurity measures” landed next in spending priority at 25 percent, followed by “maximizing data analytics programs” (22 percent), “telehealth support” (20 percent), and “applying AI initiatives” (2 percent).

These top two spending areas aligned closely again when CIOs were asked, “What is the most recent or near future IT mission critical event for your organization?” At 33 percent, “cybersecurity response” took first rank with “EHR new version upgrades” closely behind at 30 percent, followed by “system consolidation from M&A activity” (19 percent), and “system, server or software patching” (17 percent).

It is also notable that compared to last year, survey respondents are less centered on addressing increased marketplace competition, which 9 percent cited as a top focus, down from 30 percent in 2020. Meanwhile, interoperability remains a top area of concern, with one in four respondents designating interoperability as their largest priority.

Sponsored Recommendations

Trailblazing Technologies: Looking at the Top Technologies for the Emerging U.S. Healthcare System

Register for the first session of the Healthcare Innovation Spotlight Series today to learn more about 'Healthcare's New Promise: Generative AI', the latest technology that is...

Data: The Bedrock of Digital Engagement

Join us on March 21st to discover how data serves as the cornerstone of digital engagement in healthcare. Learn from Frederick Health's transformative journey and gain practical...

Northeast Georgia Health System: Scaling Digital Transformation in a Competitive Market

Find out how Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) enabled digital access to achieve new patient acquisition goals in Georgia's highly competitive healthcare market.

2023 Care Access Benchmark Report for Healthcare Organizations

To manage growing consumer expectations and shrinking staff resources, forward-thinking healthcare organizations have adopted digital strategies, but recent research shows that...