CIOs Under Pressure to Keep Up With Interoperability, Big Data and Security Challenges

May 19, 2016
Healthcare CIOs expect IT budgets to increase in the next two years, but, at the same time, healthcare IT leaders are facing pressing challenges related to security and compliance and the role of IT in driving revenue, according to a new survey report.

Healthcare CIOs expect IT budgets to increase in the next two years, but, at the same time, healthcare IT leaders are facing pressing challenges related to security and compliance and the role of IT in driving revenue, according to a new survey report.

The report from infrastructure IT vendor Peak 10, titled “2nd National IT Trends in Healthcare Study,” reflects a survey of 157 IT decision makers at healthcare organizations as well as first-person interviews with seven C-level executives and healthcare information technology professionals on their technology usage, planning trends and security and compliance concerns.

“A ‘never sleep, always worry’ environment is an accurate descriptor for the position of the healthcare CIO, as well as healthcare organizations at large, given the ever-shifting state of information technology today. Taking into account the rapid trend of cloud adoption, critical considerations for security and compliance, and the fact that IT now plays an integral role in driving revenue, there are a multitude of pressing IT challenges weighing on healthcare organizations and their IT teams,” the report authors wrote.

From the survey results, the report authors identified several overarching trends and drivers:

Cloud Adoption – Healthcare organizations are swiftly becoming more open to outsourcing cloud and colocation (colo), with the intention of taking advantage of improved operational efficiency.

Most organizations currently host some applications in the cloud, but 80 percent still have in-house production workloads, though this trend is beginning to shift.

While healthcare organizations are becoming more open to outsourcing cloud and colocation, there continues to be hesitation, such as the fear of decreased security. The survey found that 80 percent of respondents cited security and data privacy as their top concerns in moving to the cloud, with costs and loss of control over data following at 60 percent.

IT as a Revenue Driver – A number of IT trends predicted to come to fruition over several years are being significantly accelerated, such as the adoption of patient portals and electronic records. Healthcare organizations hope to use these tools as competitive differentiators and drivers of business. The healthcare CIO now has a seat at the organization’s board table.

Security and Compliance: Mitigating Attacks, Aligning with Regulations – Cybersecurity and compliance go hand-in-hand: attack methods and breaches continue to threaten healthcare organizations, while compliance requirements remain a moving target; IT decision makers say that their budgets are increasing, but resources are still strained due to pressure to remain in compliance and breach-free.

One of the key findings of the survey is that population health is top of mind for many healthcare organizations along with changing business models, both of which are major big data considerations.  And while big data is gaining steam as an initiative, talent is an issue.

Another key finding is that electronic health record (EHR) migrations remain a top priority for most organizations, transpiring more swiftly than expected. And, consolidations and mergers are driving IT priorities.

For healthcare IT leaders, there are many pain points, including IT departments continue to be stretched thin, straining for time, budget and personnel resources. Changing regulations, security and resource constraints remain constant obstacles and consolidation brings integration challenges.

According to survey respondents, mobility and patient portals were reported as the top technology solutions or changes believed to have the greatest future impact on patient or customer experience in the next two to five years.

Data security is a hot button issue and the majority of IT leaders responding to the survey rated their security program a B-, according to the report.

Ransomware is emerging as a major concern, creating the need to balance proactivity versus reactivity, as well as balancing available organizational resources versus actual needs.

“Connected devices and IoT initiatives are simultaneously creating massive streams of data and openings for security threats.

Health IT leaders also continue to struggle to keep up with regulations, and in this area, staffing is a major concern.

At the same time, fulfilling Meaningful Use Stage 3 requirements is top of mind. “CIOs are being pushed to deliver faster and more transparent data to regulators, as well as their partners,” the report authors state.

The repot authors noted that the responsibilities of healthcare CIOs are shifting rapidly.

“What was once an operations-based, day-to-day focused role has morphed into a strategic position, predicated by forecasting future needs based on today’s trends. Challenges include reacting to ever-changing regulations, implementing technology solutions to solve complex problems, improving patient care and outcomes and meeting regulation and security requirements,” the report authors wrote.

Overall, in the past two years, the healthcare IT survey respondents reported moderate infrastructure changes, with a decrease in in-house environments and an increase in collocated and cloud infrastructure as a Service environments. Software as a Service (SaaS) adoption across workloads has increased by about one-third.

Looking ahead, CIOs were surveyed about their biggest IT initiatives for the next 12 months. Half of respondents said upgrades/refreshes and interoperability, noting initiatives such as integrating a newly acquired hospital into their organization and developing replacement strategy for EMR from acquired hospital.

Among the respondents, 32 percent cited EHR/EMR as a big IT initiative in the coming year. Other responses included consolidation (vendor, M&A) by 12 percent, analytics/big data/data warehouse by 12 percent, security (10 percent), data center update/relocation/build by 9 percent and network and mobility (6 percent). In addition, 5 percent cited population health, telemedicine and storage initiatives.

And, 67 percent of IT leaders indicated they expected their IT budgets to increase in the next two years, an accelerated trend since 2014.

According to the report authors, the results of the Peak 10 study indicate that fast-paced innovations in technology in conjunction with the complexity of compliance requirements are aggressively driving the healthcare industry.

“The evolving role of the healthcare CIO means that these individuals have a seat at the executive table, with the power to make a lasting financial impact on business. Technology can now be used to transform the healthcare organization at large, and IT leaders need to stay abreast of changing tides,” the report authors wrote.

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