The role of CIOs in the healthcare industry has evolved rapidly in the last few years as the healthcare industry is undergoing radical changes in technology. They are now looked upon as the changemakers in the industry and are responsible for incorporating new technology. Today’s CIOs must be competent to deal with daily challenges of working with healthcare issues, budget constraints, staff shortage, and public health regulations, and must be quick to respond to new initiatives and challenges that face the hospital. There is no wonder that CIOs in the healthcare industry have probably the busiest, hardest, and the most stressed jobs today.
This blog addresses the top three concerns for the hospital CIOs.
Optimizing IT systems
Most hospitals have made huge investments on EHRs and IT systems to improve patient care. Hospitals authorities are overwhelmed with patient data, but outdated technologies and the lack of interoperability between healthcare IT systems make efforts to tap into this data a daunting task. As more and more hospitals adopt a value-based care system, where reimbursement is directly tied to the quality of patient care, hospitals must update their IT infrastructure so they can be more proactive about managing their patient populations. This is where EHR systems help. CIOs are responsible rolling out EHR systems, and also maintaining and optimizing the systems in response to inputs from health providers. Hence, the topmost priority on the minds of most of the CIO’s is to get the most out of their EHR solutions. In recent years, EHRs have evolved from just being electronic versions of medical records to offering multiple services to various departments, such as better clinical decision support systems, user-portals for patients, and bill generation systems. The EHR data is also linked to administrative and billings functions to automate the revenue cycle. EHRs are being used by other departments to provide expert-based guidance and personalized medicine. As all these functions directly impact a hospital’s revenue and profits, it is very critical to ensure that the EHR systems are utilized to their maximum capabilities to maximize ROI.
Another major concern is to ensure better security and interoperability. Time and again, security experts highlight breaches in healthcare and ways in which a hospital should prepare to respond and recover from cyber-attacks. Patient health records contain a lot of sensitive information, such as credit card details, e-mail addresses, social security numbers, employment information, and medical history records. This information could be used by cyber criminals to launch phishing attacks, commit fraud and steal medical identities.
Hospitals need to be highly vigilant and must develop ways to strengthen their security infrastructure to detect potential cyberattacks. They must have stronger backup and recovery capabilities for all their records. According to US Cybersecurity Report and Becker’s Health IT & CIO Review, the healthcare industry is most vulnerable to cyber-attacks and unfortunately, it is least prepared and has the weakest infrastructure to safeguard itself from such attacks. This is because most hospitals have a very low budget of less than 10 percent towards cybersecurity. Whereas a cyberattack could cost average hospital a whopping 3.5 million dollars. Reports also suggest that over 77% of healthcare organizations have been infected with malware since August 2015. Moreover, cyber-attacks can bring down a hospital’s credit ratings. In recent times, CIOs and CISOs of hospitals have reported increased budgets for cybersecurity but are still struggling to have the right tools and staff in place to address the problem.
Bridging the talent gap
Healthcare organizations need a Patient-Centric workforce of highly skilled people -doctors, nurses, medical assistants, practice managers, support specialists, technicians, analysts, receptionists, administrators, and IT experts. Due to advancements in technology, life expectancy has increased resulting in an increase in aging population and a consequent increase in the demand for more hospitals, clinics, physicians and healthcare professionals. Additionally, due to digitization and mobile health technology, there is an increasing demand for healthcare professionals and experts who also have a good knowledge of IT. The third biggest concern for CIOs is to induct qualified talent and have a fully staffed department. In most cases, it becomes difficult to run a department with underqualified staff and many a times patient care suffers due to a shortage in staffing.
There is serious shortage of both primary care and specialist physicians. Added to this shortage is the budget crunch to offer competitive salaries to the retain good talent. CIOs have to be creative enough to attract and retain talent
The healthcare industry is probably one of the few industries that faces multiple IT challenges where government mandates, stringent security requirements and a need to replace outdated technology make a CIO’s job difficult. Healthcare CIOs must strike a balance between all these factors while at the same time deal with tight budgets and shortage of IT talent amid the political firestorm to reform healthcare in general.