Stoltenberg Consulting annual’s healthcare IT outlook survey concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic has rearranged their priorities. Moreover, the pandemic has "raised the bar for the digital health experiences."
Health system chief information officers are now valuing patient engagement over artificial intelligence and machine learning, according to the poll of 65 CIOs, who have previously ranked AI and machine learning as their top priority.
Meanwhile, CIOs say their biggest priority is updating their electronic health records (EHR) systems, along with beefing up cybersecurity and data analytics, although a much larger proportion said that getting the most out of their existing IT purchases was their top priority.
COVID-19 has changed much in healthcare over the past year, and it appears hospital IT departments are no exception. The consultancy's ninth annual survey, conducted in conjunction with College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, confirms that there has been a paradigm shift in priorities among CIOs of hospitals and healthcare systems.
Although the overall biggest priority was supporting their organization’s COVID-19 response, 52% said another top priority was patient engagement. By contrast, the last survey’s biggest concern – prioritizing AI and machine learning, plummeted in the rankings. Only 14% of CIOs said that was their top priority over the next year.
Healthcare CIOs have been under tremendous pressure to upgrade their organizations’ telehealth capabilities, with many saying they cannot move fast enough in that area.
"Post-COVID-19 consumers expect care experiences to be highly coordinated and highly digital, with tools for managing their health and health information," the report said. "Health systems that fail to deliver on the digital experience could struggle to attract new consumers following the pandemic."
However, concern about market competition has slipped as a priority. Just 9% of CIOs said it was a top focus in the most current survey, compared to 30% in the prior survey.
Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said that IT upgrades would be where they would invest the most dollars in the coming year, with cybersecurity measures second at 25%. Healthcare-related cyberattacks rose dramatically in the last part of 2020.
CIOs also noted that if budgets were not an issue, they “would invest in more—and more knowledgeable—help desk staff to create a more streamlined, standardized end-user experience.”